October 7, 2005

Amateur Spotlight

Andy Fantuz — Wide Receiver, University of Western Ontario

By Mike Hogan,

Who is he? He's the most feared offensive player in the OUA, if not all of Canada. Statistically speaking, Fantuz is not only the best three-year receiver in CIS history, he's already the best ever in several categories and he still has another season of eligibility left. A scary thing happened to the Chatham, Ontario native when he was playing in a three-on-three basketball tournament this summer. He was hit in his thigh by another player's knee and the result was far worse than a charley horse. There was a tremendous amount of bleeding and Fantuz was forced to have an operation on the leg. It was so bad that there was fear he may lose the limb. He seems to have made a full recovery after his hospital stay and subsequent rehabilitation.

Strengths: The first thing that scouts mention is his size. No DB relishes the job of covering someone 6'4&rdquo, especially when they have long arms and big, soft hands. Fantuz is a tall, solidly built receiver who knows how to use his size to his advantage. He has an uncanny ability to catch the ball in traffic – in fact a record-breaking catch last year was made in quadruple coverage. “He can catch the ball wherever it's thrown,&rdquo raved one personnel man. As for his ability to play against bigger, stronger, faster DBs in the pro game another CFL scout told me “He's not going to shrink.&rdquo

Weaknesses: Speed. While he possesses talent that would make him a potential first-overall pick, Fantuz is not fast. He opted not to run the 40-yard dash at the East West Bowl testing sessions back in May. He certainly recognizes this as something that will hurt him at the next level and was working with a sprint coach to refine his technique when he suffered the aforementioned leg injury. Most believe he's in the 4.8/4.9 range in the 40. That's really the only major problem in the eyes of the scouts at this point. He's not overly physical, but is willing to block “and that's half the battle,&rdquo said one scout. Another said that his route-running ability needs to be refined a bit.

So far in 2005: In the season opener, albeit against the weak University of Toronto Blues, Fantuz caught five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. That was a big relief after the off-season health concerns. After five games Fantuz has 29 catches for 501 yards (17.3 per game) and eight touchdowns and leads the CIS in catches, yardage and TD receptions. He's the main reason the Mustangs are 5-0 so far this year.

Those in the know say: The people I've talked to like Fantuz a lot, aside from his obvious lack of speed. There's one thing keeping Fantuz from being the No. 1 overall pick – his lack of explosiveness. “There's nothing else I don't like, but he has no burst and can't get immediate separation,&rdquo said one scout while another exec added that the speed and the burst were his only concerns. “If he were faster he'd be getting a look in the NFL.&rdquo He's also a receiver who rarely – if ever – catches the ball with his body. &rdquoHe catches the ball like he's 6'0&rdquo, not 6'4&rdquo&rdquo.

The numbers say: He's 6'4″, 220 and in his fourth year at Western. He's been a CIS All-Canadian in each of his three seasons. Fantuz is already the all-time leader in CIS receiving yards with 3,298 heading into the season. Fantuz has set the standard for all-time CIS TD receptions, and needs 13 catches in the next three games to become the all-time receptions leader in CIS history. In the East West Bowl he had seven catches for 79 yards and a major.

Fantuz future: There is very little doubt Fantuz will be drafted in the early stages of first round this year. He should be a starter in the CFL and could very well become an impact player. The name that kept coming up in my discussions with personnel people was that of Jason Clermont, a kid who didn't have blazing speed but seemed to do everything else well. Where he plays in the pros is still up for debate. The discussion ranged from “He could play inside for us but we'd see him as primarily an outside guy,&rdquo to “There's no way he could play inside,&rdquo to “We see him as a slotback&rdquo. What can be agreed upon is that Fantuz will be drafted in the first round and will likely become a possession receiver who becomes very dangerous in the red zone.

Reader's note: The plan is to eventually have a “Top Ten&rdquo list to go with these features. After just returning from extensive scouting visits to NFL camps, CFL teams are now in the process of looking at prospects live and acquiring game film to get a better idea of what these kids can and can't do. That will push back the ratings until a little later in the year. The profiles will continue so you can get an idea for yourself and formulate your own ideas. The CFL personnel people that I've talked to have been very forthright and helpful in putting together a data base that I will draw from in the future and compile a “Top Ten&rdquo once it becomes apparent who will be the top players selected next April. It's obvious that these talent evaluators love talking about these prospects. You can tell that they have a genuine passion for what they're doing and I hope that it comes across in this feature.

Mike Hogan hosts The Bullpen from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Fan 590 in Toronto and is the voice of Laurier Golden Hawks Football on 570 News in Waterloo, Ontario.