March 19, 2009

Draft: The Queen’s Quintet

Mike Hogan

The tradition is impressive. In Canadian intercollegiate football the names of Frank Tindall, Jim Young and Ronnie Stewart are synonymous with excellence.

Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario is the home of the Gaels. It’s a program that has produced more than a handful of electees to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. It’s a team that has its name on the Grey Cup as many times as the Saskatchewan Roughriders. That said, times have been tough for the Gaels. They haven’t been to a Vanier Cup final since winning the Championship in 1992, nor have there been many players who have worn the Tricolour who have made a mark in the CFL. In fact, Matt Kirk, Bryan Crawford, and Rob Bagg are the only three former Gaels to have received significant playing time in 2008.

Come draft day five more prospects may have a chance of joining them.

This year the CFL instituted a Scouting Bureau to keep fans abreast of who the top draft-eligible prospects are. Two players on the Top-15 list played their OUA ball in Kingston in ’08 and three of their teammates joined them at the CFL’s Evaluation Camp held this past weekend.

Thaine Carter is a 5’11”, 215-pound linebacker. The Nanaimo, B.C. native became the first Queen’s player ever to win the President’s Trophy as the top defensive player in the CIS. He’s got a great sense for where the football is and has a non-stop motor. Carter’s impact could be summed up in the Gaels playoff game against Ottawa. He banged up his knee in the first quarter and was not able to return. They lost the game and his absence was certainly a contributing factor. Carter finished the season rated as the #15 prospect on the Top-15 list

Ten positions higher on that list is defensive teammate Osie Ukwuoma. Ukwuoma is a Mississauga, Ont. native and at the CFL Evaluation Camp weighed in at 267 pounds on his 6’1 frame. An explosive player off the edge, he had 9½ sacks in nine games on his way to All-Canadian status. He was a runner up for the J.P. Metras Award, handed out annually to the outstanding down lineman in the CIS. Ukwuoma has a good burst and certainly has the size to play in the CFL. If there was a yellow flag raised at the E-camp it would have been the fact that he was only able to bench press the required 225 pounds 13 times. That said, he certainly has time to get stronger.

At the other end of that scale is a hometown Kingston product, Dee Sterling. The 6’3, 261 pound defensive lineman tied for top spot at the camp with 23 lifts at 225 pounds, Sterling is another first-team All-Canadian who may hear his name called May 2nd.

Dan Bederman is a two time OUA all-star offensive lineman. At 6’3”, 332 he has the perfect frame for a center at the next level. Bederman is also very quick and is a good athlete. Teams in need of some Canadian depth on their O-line may be tempted to draft the Toronto native.

The most intriguing of the Queen’s “Fab Five” may be cornerback/return specialist Jimmy Allin. One of the most exciting players in the CIS, Allin was an All-Canadian at both positions. He made the First Team as a returner, the Second Team as a corner. While Allin making the CFL as a cornerback would be a long shot at best, the Belleville, Ontario native has shown a good burst and has an innate ability to make tacklers miss, not only in space but in traffic as well. Allin set an E-Camp record in the shuttle test and also recorded an impressive 37” vertical jump. If he’s not drafted it would be a travesty if he doesn’t at least get invited to a camp.

The name “Golden” is no longer an official part of the once “Golden Gaels” and while it has yet to be determined if any or all of these players make an impact in the CFL, Queen’s is again becoming a gold mine for those looking at potential Canadian talent for the league.

Mike Hogan is the Voice of the Argonauts on THE FAN 590 in Toronto and has been the Voice of the Vanier Cup for more than a decade. He is also a member of the CIS Football Top-10 Committee.