One of the major changes that the Concordia Stingers football team made after last season was hiring former St-Jean Géants head coach, Alex Surprenant, as offensive coordinator.
Fast-forward to the present, and Surprenant now has two games under his belt as the Stingers offensive coordinator. Those games may not have gone the way the team would have liked, starting out with two losses, but Surprenant knows that this is a young team trying to rebuild their program.
Head coach Brad Collinson and Surprenant put an emphasis on recruiting fast and local players on the offensive side of the ball during the off-season to play in Surprenant’s Run-Pass option, or RPO, system.
“If you want to win [long term] it really depends on your recruiting class,” said Surprenant. “Coach Brad also put together a great coaching staff. The football world is a little community where everyone knows everyone and he surrounded me with a great staff.”
The RPO system is something relatively new to the Canadian football world. It’s a tough system to implement, as there are only three downs as opposed to the American game, where there are four downs where it’s a lot easier to use it in.
“The biggest adjustment is that it’s three downs here instead of four like in CEGEP,” Surprenant said. “But at the end of the day, it’s still football so it’s not that difficult to adapt.”
Another major change to the offence is that they also use a no-huddle system. That means that quarterback Adam Vance gets the signal from the sideline and yells it to the rest of the team from the line of scrimmage without going into a huddle. This allows the offence to move at a faster pace.
“My inspiration comes from the [Kansas City] Chiefs, [New England] Patriots, and the Oregon Ducks from back in the day,” said Surprenant. “Those offences are the best at getting to the line quickly and using their speed.”
The players aren’t the only ones excited about the new offence. Collinson says he was also very excited to see the system that Surprenant put into place during training camp.
“Any time you put in something new, you get excited and want to learn it,” said Collinson. “There’s a lot of diversity in what we’re doing too, like RPO and zone-read options. Alex ran a really good offence at the CEGEP level and we’re seeing some of it here.”
The first two games of the season proved to be tough ones for the offence for many different reasons. But that is to be expected with a young team trying to find its identity. However, these are not excuses for the coaching staff.
Against Les Carabins de l’Université de Montréal, there were multiple missed opportunities by the Stingers to advance the ball down the field due to penalties and dropped passes that would have extended the Stingers offence’s time on the field.
“If we played our best game and lost 10-3, we would have been happy,” said Surprenant. “But after watching film, we’re not happy. We had a lot of missed opportunities at the end of the game that would have given our team a way better chance at winning.”
Whatever the reason may be for the dropped passes in that game, the Stingers could revisit what worked well for them. They moved quickly in their no-huddle offence and kept the Carabins, a top three team in the country, on their heels for a lot of the game whenever they got into an offensive rhythm.
However, this past week against McGill, their game plan got away from them. It started off with a four play offensive drive that ended in an Andrew Stevens punt. McGill caught the Stingers flat footed on defense and drove 82 yards in just three plays and never looked back.
A big part of any offence is the offensive line. Vance and his running backs can only do their jobs if the offensive line gives them the time to make plays. In the first quarter, starting left tackle Damien Constantin went down with an injury and did not return.
For right-handed quarterbacks, such as Vance, the left tackle is the most important position on the line as that position protects the quarterback’s blindside.
“It’s tough to overcome,” said Vance after Friday’s loss. “We don’t have a lot of depth [at the position]. It’s a really big blow.”
The Stingers found a bit of a rhythm in the second half but not enough to mount a comeback, as it was too little too late.
“We came [to McGill] and thought they’d roll over, but last time I checked we haven’t won a game in something like 300 days so we can’t be thinking like that,” Vance said.
The Stingers still have six more games this season to right their wrongs and get the offence on track. It is hard to temper expectations after such a strong effort in their first game against the Carabins, but they are still a very young team with a lot to learn, according to Surprenant.
“Coach Brad told the guys, ‘we need to learn how to win. You’re not born a winner and nothing is given.’ It’s a hard process but we know we will get to where we want to be,” said Surprenant.
Feature photo by Laurence BD