Concordia Stingers linebackers Jersey Henry and Sam Brodrique travelled to Ottawa this summer to take part in the annual U Sports East-West Bowl; a game meant to be a showcase of the top draft-eligible U Sports players in Canada.
“Good players never half-ass, they always run, they always try to make good plays,” said Brodrique. “Even when [those players] are opposite of the play, they’re always on the ball. That’s what good players do and that’s what we need to do on defence.
This isn’t a normal season for the Stingers. They’re in the middle of head coach Brad Collinson’s first true season at the helm after being hired late summer 2018. This year, he cleaned house and hired an entirely new coaching staff.
So far, at 1-4, the season has had its ups and downs. On offence, quarterback Adam Vance has emerged as a top playmaker in U Sports, even claiming offensive player of the week in Week 5. James Tyrrell is currently the most dangerous receiver in the division. On special teams, Kevin Foster has been one of the most dynamic returners in the RSEQ, and the kicking duo of Andrew Stevens and Bradley James Santos has helped put points (and wins) on the board for the team.
The learning curve on defence has been a little different. While players like Brodrique, Henry, Wael Nasri, Khadeem Pierre, former fullback Yassir Laarais, and Zamaad Gambari are enjoying solid individual seasons, the whole defence as a unit has struggled. The Stingers are currently ranked last in the RSEQ in both pass and rush defence.
Enter Stingers defensive coordinator Ed Philion.
The coach’s resume includes playing and coaching experience to the team. He played in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers, and an eight-year stint with the Alouettes of the CFL, where he played with Collinson in 2003.
Philion’s won two Grey Cups, the first in 2002 as a player and the second in 2015 as a coach with the Edmonton Eskimos. After retiring as a player, Philion travelled North to the CFL, coaching with the Toronto Argonauts, Saskatchewan Roughriders and Edmonton Eskimos. His experience is part of the reason the team responds well to him.
“Our coaches do a really good job translating the game plan, and making sure terminology isn’t too choppy,” said Henry. “All of our coaches having experience playing in the NFL, CFL, playing at that level that we all aspire to play at. Any time our coaches have anything to say, we listen.”
Now Philion’s job includes trying to shut down some of the strongest teams in Canada. After starting the season 0-3, Philion was adamant that he was trying to build the foundations of a winning squad.
“We just want to get better each game and build off of [the games],” explained Philion. “The last two games [against Laval and Montreal] we didn’t play well, so we’re looking to bounce back and we’ve focused a lot on teaching technique.”
For Henry and Brodrique, the goal for the rest of the season is to establish the defence’s gameplan, and that includes playing with speed.
“Everyone knows that our game plan is to bring pressure, it’s no secret,” said Henry. “For us it’s just making sure that we’re hitting our gaps and making sure that we’re doing everything that’s going to help our teammates make plays if we’re not the ones making plays.”
“We’re not a big team, we’re a fast team,” explained Brodrique. “We’re not just going out there to give a good game, we’re trying to win.”
Feature photo by Laurence B.D.