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Home > Articles > CIS Football > Football Gaels open training camp

Football Gaels open training camp

Posted: August 15th, 2013 @ 9:43pm


Other than the way it ended, the first day of practice went well for Queen's Golden Gaels coach Pat Sheahan.

"On the first day there's bound to be some highs and lows because we're spilling a lot of information in," Sheahan said Thursday, after he excused his players earlier than he wanted when city league soccer players started arriving for a game that had apparently been double-booked for the upper west campus field.

On a gloriously sunny - if windy - afternoon, 104 players went through non-contact drills in their first day of preparation for the Ontario University Athletics football season.

It's a veteran team with just a handful of significant losses: Defensive backs Ben D'Andrea and Josh Sultana and linebacker Stephen Laporte, whose five years of eligibility are used; centres Mike Sullivan, who graduated, and Matt Lapointe, who is pursuing graduate studies at Carleton; and receiver Boris Isakov, who graduated in the spring with an engineering degree.

With so many players returning from a team that was 6-2 in the regular year and reached the conference semifinals in 2012, expectations run high.

"We expect to be better rapidly," Sheahan said. "Our goal this year is to set the bar high and try and get over it every day."

Entering his 25th year as an intercollegiate head coach, Sheahan is presented with an interesting dynamic on a team with a heavy complement of veterans who are familiar with the systems and plays, but also two dozen freshmen and a host of little-used returning underclassmen anxious to contest the four starting spots up for grabs.

"You can't really compete if you don't know what you're doing," Sheahan said, "so if you want to create some healthy competition, you've got to bring the knowledge level of the first-year players up."

That's why the first day of practice was without contact, as the coaches did live walk-throughs to add the third dimension to playbook material the newcomers will have to digest in a hurry.

The tricky part, Sheahan said, is finding a pace that at once indoctrinates the rookies without overwhelming them, yet moves the veterans forward without boring them.

"What happens is the veterans will become impatient," he predicted. "They'll want the pace of things to increase. They're ready to take more (information) because they know the stuff."

Sheahan grinned.

"We'll let them whine a little bit and then go."

In the best possible outcome the veteran players will establish a setting where the newcomers are forced to keep up, at least to the point where enough of them are ready to fill the vacancies in the starting lineup.

"It will be an osmostic kind of thing that will happen," Sheahan said, "and (the young players) will be pulled along in the groundswell. It will be difficult for them after a couple of days but my expectation is the veterans will acclimatize and get on with it."

Perhaps the most interesting position in training camp, competition-wise, will be running back, where Ryan Granberg, the nation's leading rusher in 2011 who had more than 2,000 yards rushing in the last two years, and Jesse Andrews, who had back-to-back 100-yard games in his first two intercollegiate starts last year in the playoffs after Granberg got hurt, both return.

Joining them in the quest for playing time are two highly touted transfers, Brendan Morgan (St. Michael's College, via the University of Virginia) and Daniel Heslop (Pickering, via Savannah State).

"There's no question the two transfer kids are good-looking athletes," Sheahan said. "They both had fine high school football careers; they were both marquee-type players. They got some attention in their senior years and they went south and, like a lot of our kids who go down there, their careers didn't necessarily pan out the way they had envisioned.

"They found it more advantageous to return and play the Canadian game later in their career but they have been well coached and they have competed against some good athletes in Division 1. What they bring is a desire to contribute and re-establish their careers."

The Gaels will practise daily leading to their season opener Sunday, Aug. 25, at York. Queen's home opener will be on Labour Day, Sept. 3, when they will host the defending Yates Cup champion McMaster Marauders.
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