University of Toronto Varsity Blues
After what can only be described as the worst season ever in U of T football history, the Varsity Blues break camp with a renewed sense of optimism. New head coach Steve Howlett, a former OUA all-star at slotback for the Blues, has already begun to put his stamp on the team. A coaching staff rounded out by Greg DeLaval, Chris Hadley, Bob Howes, Aaron White, Dan Crifo and Dan Feraday should shape up to be one of the strongest the school has ever seen. As they take the field in 2003 this team will be more disciplined and hungry for a win.
On the field, quarterback Carter Livingstone returns to the helm for the Blues. Last season he started all eight games for the team, and he connected on 80 of his 156 pass attempts for 754 yards and two touchdowns. Livingstone must step up his play if the Blues are going to do anything this year.
The key to the offense is running back Templar Iga. Last season Iga carried the ball 105 times for 452 yards, good enough for 15th place in rushing in the CIS. He will be counted on heavily in the upcoming season. Talented recruit George Polyzois from St. Michael’s College will also get some quality minutes in the Blues backfield.
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Derek Wheeler will be asked to lead a young team. Wheeler, the heart and soul of the Blues defense, notched 50 tackles and one sack in 2002. Blues will sorely miss defensive lineman Gabe Robinson, who has graduated and signed with the Toronto Argonauts. Bob Vranich, who last season had 22 tackles and one sack, will be asked to pick up the slack.
What does all this mean for the Varsity Blues in 2003? The winless campaigns of the last couple of seasons will stop.
Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks
Question marks surround this team in 2003, the main one being that of QB Ryan Pyear. Pyear returns from an injury plagued 2002 season in which he suffered a torn ACL and a concussion.
The team’s offense is led by star running back Derek Medler. Medler exceeded all expectations in 2002 and he is expected to follow up on his stellar rookie season in which he was the MVP of the East-West Bowl as well as second in the nation in rushing. If Laurier is to score points, then Medler will be the one doing it.
Defensively, star recruit linebacker Anthony Maggiacomo will be counted upon to play some heavy minutes for the Golden Hawks.
2003 will be a tough season for Laurier as the team rebuilds and looks forward to better times in 2004.
University of Waterloo Warriors
Last season the Warriors struggled to make the playoffs and were immediately knocked out by Queen’s.
Waterloo enters the 2003 campaign with a veteran offensive unit featuring a great set of receivers, including a huge target in tight end Matt Reid.
On defense, lineman J.J. Jones and linebacker Johnny Chehade will be counted upon to provide leadership for an inexperienced group.
Waterloo will not have improved much from the 2002 season, and they risk being vulnerable to some upsets. Another trip to the playoffs for the Warriors will meet another quick first round exit.
University of Ottawa Gee Gees
After dominating OUA football for the past five seasons, last year Ottawa came crashing back to reality and finished in the middle of the pack. Quarterback/receiver David Azzi, one of the most dangerous players in the OUA, will once again lead the team. He seems to put points on the board when the Gee Gees need them most.
On defense Ottawa is young, speedy and very athletic. The strength is in the interior as Matt Singer and Matt Goreski anchor the defensive line, preventing opponents from racking up huge rushing yards.
The pieces are in place for the Gee Gees to be successful in 2003, but they just don’t have enough to get over the hump.
Queen’s University Golden Gaels
2002 was a great year for Queen’s as they posted a 7-1 record en route to an appearance in the Yates Cup, before being beat by McMaster 33-19.
The Golden Gaels offence is driven by the strongest passing attack in the CIS, with Hec Crighton winner, quarterback Tommy Denison, leading the team.
The strong-armed Denison is flanked by some of the best receivers in the OUA, all-Canadian receiver Brad Smith and OUA all-star Iain Fleming. The group is joined by talented freshman Taylor Morassulti, who should bring speed to the position.
Last season the Golden Gaels defense was a wall, allowing only 9 offensive touchdowns and 713 yards passing. It should only be better this season, which is downright scary.
2003 will be the year that Queen’s asserts itself as the cream of the OUA football crop.
University of Windsor Lancers
Once regarded as the laughing stock of the OUA, after making the playoffs last season Windsor is now one of the tougher teams to play. The Lancers return 22 starters from last year’s team, keeping the offensive line intact.
The Cruciano twins, Jason and Brian, lead one of the league’s most experienced defensive lines. These guys will plug the middle.
Big things are expected from this team, as they look to make it to two consecutive playoff appearances.
University of Guelph Gryphons
After making the playoffs as the last seed in the OUA in 2003, the Gryphons will not make any great strides in the upcoming season.
Star receiver Michael Palmer has signed with the Argonauts, and former Windsor QB Kevin Adam becomes the new starting quarterback leaving the team looking weak offensively.
The Guelph linebacking corps is totally new, which means the defense will be tested early and often in the pass happy OUA.
The Gryphons made huge strides in 2002, but in 2003 they will take a couple of steps backwards.
McMaster University Marauders
Defeated by St. Mary’s in the Churchill Bowl in 2002, the Marauders will be looking for revenge in 2003. With the return of both quarterbacks and star running back Kyle Pyear, Mac’s only weak link will be their defense. Linebackers Ray Mariuz and Mike Botterill have both moved on to play for the CFL.
Last season the Marauders were unbeatable in the OUA, but this year, with their defense somewhat suspect, they will find it hard to repeat as Yates Cup champions.
York University Lions
Last season York exceeded its expectations, finally winning a playoff game. But this season, the loss of key starters on both sides of the ball will hurt the Lions badly.
The most significant loss for the team is that of all-time career passing leader Billy Barbosa, who may go down as the best York quarterback ever. J.P. Marchello will try to fill the veteran’s empty shoes. With CIS all-Canadian Dennis Mavrin gone, defensive backs Neil Maki and Clinton John will also be asked to step up their game.
2002 was a great year for the Lions, but they will find it extremely difficult to repeat last year’s success.
University of Western Mustangs
In 2002, the combination of quarterback Chris Hessel and freshman receiving sensation OUA rookie of the year Andy Fantuz rewrote the Western record books. This dynamic duo is looking to get the job done again this season.
The Mustangs defense is just as strong as their offence, with Adrian Rocca and Chad Asslestine leading the d-line.
All of the pieces are in place for the Mustangs to have another successful season.