Concordia’s men’s football team is looking to bounce back in 2011 after a difficult season.
The Stingers performed admirably well, considering the team’s youth, and a string of injuries.
By week one last year, the team was already at a disadvantage when starting quarterback Robert Mackay suffered a concussion and was sidelined for the remainder of the season.
Terrance Morsink had to take over for Mackay in just his second year with the team and the Stingers wound up finishing with a record of 4-5, missing the playoffs.
Morsink completed 170 of 302 passes and wound up with 2,037 yards on the season with eight touchdowns and 18 interceptions. The last number was Morsink’s biggest concern.
Morsink spent the off-season improving his footwork and feels more confident going into the season as the starter.
“I feel like everything has slowed down for me,” said Morsink. “I’m seeing the field a lot clearer and able to make my reads much quicker. Personally, the novelty of being a starter in the CIS has worn off. I now know what it takes to be a successful quarterback in the CIS and it’s time to focus on our main goal: winning a Vanier Cup. ”
The Stingers wanted to address their offensive line in the off-season, as they had difficulty running the ball last year, averaging just 55.8 yards per game. Offensive line coach Bryan Chiu has said he’s pleased with the progression, and with veterans Anthony Barrette and Corey Newman returning, the Stingers will have a better mix up front.
The running game will be a key factor in making life easier for Morsink, and coach Gerry McGrath has made it a point to improve on. Morsink’s 302 throws led the conference and was too much for a young quarterback. The Stingers have a group of running backs in Michael Donnelly, Edem Nyamadi and Raul Thompson, who will share carries until a standout emerges.
The Stingers hope certain recruits, such as linebacker Chris O’Kill McMullen, defensive back Vince Nardone, and wide receiver Renaud Labrecque can produce fairly quickly as Concordia suffered some key player losses, most notably star slotback Liam Mahoney, who is now in the CFL, having joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Other departures include Mackay, LB/DE Kamil Thompson-Hutchinson, WR Daniel Rodrigues, DL Maurice Forbes (also in Hamilton) as well as kicker/punter Rene Paredes, who was picked up by the Calgary Stampeders this season.
On the defensive side of the ball, veteran DB Nathan Taylor will look to step up along with Kyle Smith and Nicholas Arsenault-Hum, as the unit has lost some great leaders in Forbes, Hutchinson-Thompson and Alexandre Turp.
“All three were starters on the line; it is fair to say losing them was upsetting,” said Taylor. “Kamil and Turp were both great vocal leaders and technically sound players. Maurice going to Hamilton is a clear indicator of his talent. His presence demanded the respect of the opposing team.”
The unit will be looking for more turnovers and increased physicality this season to create a shorter field for the young offence and provide as many scoring opportunities as possible.
The Stingers open the season at home this Saturday against the Laval Rouge et Or, who trounced the Stingers in both meetings last year, 46-10 and 62-7. Laval is the powerhouse of Quebec, but the Stingers are preparing as they would for any opponent.
“The preparation for every team is the same: watch game film, put together a game plan and learn to execute that game plan,” said Morsink. “However, when playing against Laval we all know that there is no room for error. They are an extremely disciplined team and are excellent at capitalizing on their opponent’s mistakes. We need to minimize our errors and stay disciplined.”
Every off-season is full of losses and gains but the biggest factor in determining the Stingers’ success this season will be how much they’ve matured from 2010. Last year was somewhat of a transitional year with the change at QB and young players among the roster. This year provides higher expectations, ideally meaning a Vanier Cup. A return to the playoffs would be a start and this season it seems more likely that the Stingers will make it, seeing as they missed the post-season last year by a hair.
The Stingers’ rise to the top may just be beginning.
The Stingers’ home opener is Sept. 3 against the Laval Rouge et Or at 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on television on CBC-RDI.