February 26, 2011

E-Camp: Trio of Dinos raised on pro offence

Jim Mullin

The terrific threesome from the Calgary Dinos, Anthony Parker, Nathan Coehoorn and Matt Walter has run roughshod through the Canada West for the better part of four seasons. 

All three players held their positions from the original CFL Draft Prospect list released in September: Slotback Anthony Parker remained at No. 3, wide receiver Nathan Coehoorn held steady at No. 7, and running back Matt Walter came in at No. 14. All three were Canada West all-stars in 2010 as the Dinos won their third straight conference title and made a second consecutive appearance in the Vanier Cup.

All three were major cogs in an offence at the U of C which allowed them to showcase their athletic skills in a system which ran on a blueprint of a professional style offense and led the Canada West in 16 categories.

“In my mind, playing on our offense will transition me well to the pro game,” Parker said of the Dino offense piloted by two-time Hec Crighton winning QB Eric Glavic.

“It’s a pro-style offense which ran a lot of search-option, zone read, pistol, five-spread, things like that, which allowed me to also work with some more complicated reads.”

Parker was used mostly as a slotback, but was moved around the offense into various positions. He’s under no illusion that he’ll face a bigger challenge at his first pro camp.

“I’ve got to get ready for more complicated reads, and I know there will be a steep learning curve with read progressions and what a quarterback is looking for.”

All of the talk about Parker’s state of mind may make one forget about the measurables he brings to the arena.

At 6’2”, 215 pounds, he’s already in shape for a pro camp and hopes to test his speed at the combine. In addition to his physical talents, he’s shown big play ability at key times in key games.

In 2009, he set a school record with a 109-yard kickoff return on the opening play of the Canada West semi-final against the Alberta Golden Bears. To seal the deal, he added another kickoff return TD in the fourth quarter of the same game. He had nine catches and 187 yards receiving against the Queen’s Gaels in his team’s Vanier Cup loss that same year.

His bloodlines are solid as well. His father Anthony played in the CFL with the BC Lions and Calgary Stampeders. His uncle Andy Johannsen played for the Dinos before moving onto the Stamps for five seasons.

Parker was also showcased as the CIS offensive representative in the East-West Shrine Bowl in Orlando, Florida.

Former CFL and U of C quarterback Greg Vavra has been his offensive coordinator during his four years in the CIS. Vavra says that at the age of 17, Parker was afforded a luxury many top-flight schools can’t afford to surrender to a youngster.

“Anthony has benefitted by game experience more than anything else,” Vavra said.

“Because our program was evolving at that time, he would step in and play because we didn’t have the roster depth that we do now,” he said.

Vavra managed to play five seasons in the CFL with Calgary, Edmonton and BC in the rarest of positions – a Canadian QB. He’s provided Parker with some career advice.

“I’ve told Anthony directly that he’ll play in the CFL for a long time, and as long as he wants to as long as his body holds out.”

His teammate, wide-out Nathan Coehoorn (pronounced COO-horn) also holds a first-round draft ranking at number seven overall. The two train together as they prepare for the combine.

“Parker is a crazy athlete,” conceded Coehoorn. 

“Working with him everyday definitely pushes me. When we run the 40’s and the shuttles, we check the times; we’re always trying to outdo each other.”

Few Canadian receivers have outdone Coehoorn at the collegiate level in the last four years.

Last year he was the Canada West Champion Dinos’ leading receiver, posting 47 receptions for 753 yards and three touchdowns in regular season and playoff games combined.  He led the conference in punt return yards with 494 on 42 returns in the regular season, and also was called on to carry the ball on occasion.

The native of Redcliff, Alberta was named Canada West all-star for the third consecutive season. In his university career he’s posted 2,496 receiving yards.

At 6’2”, 220 pounds, the 24 year old has drawn comparisons to Jason Clermont of the Saskatchewan Roughriders when it comes to his CFL potential.

BC Lions Director of Player Personnel Neil McEvoy has just begun to sit down in front of the computer screen to start the process of breaking down video on this year’s top prospects.

“He’s a solid player and has had a good year at the U of C, but at the end of the day like any player making the transition to pro he’s got to work on his speed,” McEvoy said.

The key to Coehoorn’s draft position will be incumbent upon his ability to improve his speed while training in the off-season and to have that translate to solid numbers at the combine.

“He’s a quality receiver with good hands, but he really has to go to camp and post some quality numbers to confirm things,” McEvoy added. 

Not to be forgotten in the mix is running back Matt Walter who could provide depth on offense and may be an instant special teamer on coverage.

In 2008, Walter took over at tailback two games into the season for an injured Anthony Woodson. Walter won the conference rushing title with 904 yards, posting an average of 113 yards per game. He was named conference all-star at running back.

In 2009, he followed that up with his second consecutive Canada West rushing title with 1,103 yards on the year and was named a first team CIS All-Canadian.

Walter also saved his best for a big game in 2009, racking up CIS player of the week honours in a 235-yard, two TD performance against Saint Mary’s in the Uteck Bowl.

With regular season and playoffs combined, Walter scored 17 touchdowns. He posted 763 yards rushing and five touchdowns in 2010.

Former UBC head coach Ted Goveia is part of the Toronto Argonauts football operations department and is well aware of how Walter could be used.

“He’s not big, but he’s wide and very tough and durable,” Goveia said of the 5’10”, 210 pound tailback who came straight to the Dinos from Calgary’s Bishop O’Byrne High School.

“If he shows up ready at a camp he could find his way onto special teams, and you’d build from there.”

Expect to see plenty of Dino red on May 8th at the CFL’s Canadian Draft.