Mark Stephen is Sports Director of CHQR Radio in Calgary and has broadcast Calgary Stampeder games since 1996. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkonFootball.
The transition from collegian to pro may be a short process for the top selection by the Calgary Stampeders in Sunday’s 2011 Canadian Draft. In fact, the changeover for the athlete may take all of 90 seconds.
If the Stampeders choose one of the bumper crop University of Calgary Dinos who will be eligible for the draft, that player will move his gear down the hallway at McMahon Stadium from the Dino locker room to the Stampeder locker room.
Of course, there is no guarantee that the Stampeders will select a local product with the club’s first round pick, but there will be plenty of opportunity to do so thanks to five of the top fifteen prospects having Calgary ties.
The talented group of Dinos includes slotback Anthony Parker (ranked #2 by the CFL's Scouting Bureau), receiver Nate Coehoorn (#6), running back Matt Walter (#14) and offensive lineman Paul Swiston (#15). Speedy receiver Marco Iannuzzi (#9) attended Harvard, but is a product of Calgary high school powerhouse St. Francis.
Like most Canadian Football League teams, the Stampeders have spent the better part of three months evaluating and grading players.
"You have to be flexible. You have to have some luck to have players you have ear-marked as Calgary Stampeder fall into your hands," said Head Coach and General Manager John Hufnagel.
"The next few days we'll spend playing a few games and having a mock draft, so we can get into different situations."
The Stampeders enter this draft without a glaring need. One year ago, they had to fill the placekicking position and exercised their top pick on acquiring University of Guelph's Rob Maver. That choice netted them the Canadian Football League's 2010 scoring champion.
As for their target this year, Hufnagel states that there is not one specific position the club is trying to fill.
"We do have priorities going into the draft. I don't think there is a pressing priority, but we want to add some depth to the team in certain positions," said Hufnagel, "If a position player is not rated high enough to deserve that ranking at that pick, then I'll take the best player."
While the Stampeders aren't tipping their hand on the top pick, they may find University of Calgary receiver Nate Coehoorn on the board when they pick sixth overall in the first round.
Coming off a team-leading 28 catch season, the punishing slot back is generally viewed as being close to CFL-ready. He would add depth to the Stampeders receiving core that lost veteran Canadian Ryan Thelwell to retirement in the off-season. Current Canadian receivers under contract include Arjei Franklin, Jabari Arthur and John Forzani, which means there would be room for Coehoorn.
"Nate is a good sized receiver with excellent speed," noted Hufnagel. "He demonstrates good hands and route-running ability. He also would give help on special teams. Nate should have a very good, productive career in the Canadian Football League."
Another receiver slated to be picked near the sixth slot is Marco Iannuzzi. The speedy receiver made his mark at Harvard after a junior stop with the Edmonton Wildcats. Iannuzzi excelled in returns posting a Harvard-record 34.5 yards per return average in 2010 and 26.5 yards per return over his career.
Iannuzzi’s high school, Calgary powerhouse St. Francis High School, is a school that has churned out a long list of CFL running backs including British Columbia’s Rolly Lumbala so he has been well trained to this point.
Those are players currently ranked by CFL Scouting in the range of the Stampeders’ first choice.
The Stampeders draft plans may also be impacted by the status of two 2010 draft choices. Offensive linemen John Bender and J'Michael Deane were both waiting to see if any National Football League opportunities emerge. Neither was claimed in the recent NFL draft and now both must decide if they want to wait out the NFL impasse or join the Stampeders for training camp in June.
The Stampeders may also influence the draft by virtue of having a large number of picks early in the proceedings. The club holds four of the first fourteen picks. Do they keep all those picks and stock up with high end talent or does another team try to pry a few of those selections out of their hands in a draft day deal?
"If I could move up and it's not that expensive and it's a fair deal for both teams, I would be open to doing that," said Hufnagel.
Come draft day the Stampeders may not need to spend time hunting down their top choice. Instead, they may simply pull up the office blinds and motion their top choice to hustle over to the team offices and meet their new coaches.