March 24, 2013

Combine: Ottawa franchise kickoff scouting process

Pawel Dwulit/

If you walked around the Canadian Football League Combine in downtown Toronto, one would notice colours and logos from all eight of the CFL’s franchises set to play football for the 2013 season. White, blue and red Alouettes, double blue Argos, black and gold Ticats, blue and gold Bombers, green and white Roughriders, green and gold Eskimos, red, white and black Stampeders and orange Lions.

Make no mistake, though, the ninth team was in attendance, minus official colours and logos. Ottawa’s CFL franchise was represented at the scouting combine by three individuals: General Manager Marcel Desjardins and a pair of scouts, Jeremy Snyder and Miles Gorrell. Even though the team won’t be able draft any of the players in attendance at the combine, it’s still important for information-gathering purposes.

“Obviously we can’t touch any of these players this year, so we’re really just gathering information because these guys will go to camp, some of them won’t stick, some of them will, and then some of them will be left unprotected when we do our expansion draft,” Desjardins said. “So we’re doing our due diligence to gather as much information as we can on these guys, so if and when the time comes that some of these guys are an option for us that at least we’ll have some information.”

“Montreal has been good enough to let us sit in on their interviews, take notes and get a sense of what these kids are all about, how they think on their feet and that type of thing. And again, just gathering information for potential options down the road.”

The trio of Desjardins, Snyder and Gorrell represented Ottawa at its first official CFL event since returning to the league, coming just over a week after Snyder and Gorrell were hired.

“Jeremy worked with the Alouettes part time for the last two years. He previously worked with the Chicago Bears and previous to that was a pro scout with the Eagles,” Desjardins said of Snyder. “He started working for us in Montreal, he would do NFL camps for us, he would do All-Star Bowl games for us, he would come up to our training camp and I got a pretty good feel for how he goes about his business. And because he wasn’t a full time person with Montreal, he was an option for me and it just worked out.”

No shortage of experience

Hall of Famer and veteran Canadian Scout Miles Gorrell along with Jeremy Snyder have been tasked with kick-starting the scouting process for the new Ottawa franchise which will be able to select redhsirt juniors at this year’s draft.

“I’ve always known Miles, for a number of years. I like the way he goes about his business,” Desjardins said of Gorrell. “I like the fact that he really makes a point of getting to know these players on a personal level, which I think a lot of teams do not do.”

Gorrell, who will be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in September, is on a three-month trial period.

“It’s going to become a function of how he fits into the big picture. I know him, but I’ve never worked with Miles so I want to get an idea of what his skill set is like in terms of how he writes his reports, are his evaluations in line  – I’m not saying in line with what mine would be because I think you need different opinions on players,” Desjardins said. “But I just want to get an idea of how his process works. And my intent is if everything goes according to how I think it will, he will be somebody we will keep long term. But at the end of the day, I need to make sure that I don’t lock into somebody and then all of a sudden I don’t like the way they operate, because I haven’t worked with them.”

“If Marcel deems I’m doing a good enough job, Gorrell said, he might want to hire me full time.”

Gorrell gained five years of scouting experience with the Toronto Argonauts from 2005-2010 and for the past couple years continued to keep himself up to date on CIS prospects by helping run the CFL Combine and taking in a lot of university football.  

Despite all of Gorrell’s CIS football knowledge, Ottawa is only allowed to select red shirt juniors in the 2013 Canadian Draft.

“No redshirt juniors attend the combine because of the fact that if they came here they’re giving up any eligibility they had left in the NCAA. You can’t come to a combine from an NCAA school – that means you’re going pro,” Gorrell said.

“The ones that we have to watch and that we get to pick are still in school. Whether it is Simon Fraser or Eastern Michigan or any NCAA schools that happen to have Canadians going there.”

“Our process for this draft is going to be to go through it as though we are fully participating. A, for the information, but B, to give us some insight as to how teams may draft in May because we’re drafting the red shirt juniors,” Desjardins said. “So it will give us an idea of where we think guys may fall, as the draft process goes on.”

All the Ottawa talent evaluators can do when selecting red shirt juniors is watch film and phone coaches to gather background information on potential selections.

As Desjardins and his crew looks ahead to making selections in the upcoming draft, he has other decisions to make, ranging from where the hot tubs will go in the revamped Landsdowne Park, to bringing in one more key football person he hopes to have in place by June or July, and, most importantly, hire a head coach.   

“The head coach selection process hasn’t started other than I have a list that I keep updating of people that I might have interest in. But I will probably start my process in the fall, in terms of talking to people who are not employed who may be options,” Desjardins said. “And then as teams in the league either don’t make the playoffs or get eliminated from the playoffs, and if there is people on those teams I want to talk to, then I can approach those people on those teams and talk to them at that point.”

Desjardins is still making the necessary arrangements for living in Ottawa full time. He’s moving out of a condo in Montreal while doing the same from his Waterdown, Ontario house.

“I’m kind of two weeks in Ottawa, one week on Montreal, one week in Ottawa and one week back in Waterdown, so I’m kind of all over the place right now,” the GM said.

As Desjardins transitions to Ottawa, looking to make it his new home, the team is hoping to announce its brand new name once the NHL hockey campaign is over.

“I heard Jeff Hunt say the other day on the radio that it may be sometime in May,” Desjardins said. “I think he wants to wait for the Senators season to be over, just to ensure we get maximum exposure that way. So that’s probably the timing of it.”

It sounds like the Ottawa team will have a fresh logo and colours to go along with the other eight teams soon enough.