TORONTO — They came into the CFL combine as the top prospects, and Pierre Lavertu and David Foucault didn’t do anything Sunday to diminish that standing.
The two offensive linemen capped the weekend with solid performances in the one-on-one drills at Varsity Stadium although Foucault, who was battling the flu, also showed he was human. The six-foot-eight, 300-pound tackle was knocked on his backside in a one-on-one matchup with Western defensive end Dylan Ainsworth, who gave up six inches and 75 pounds on the Montreal Carabins offensive lineman.
“He did the bullrush and kicked my ass,” Foucault said with a chuckle. “I was too high in my stance and he took advantage of my weakness. “It was a good experience here to see all the best guys in Canada as well as the CFL teams. It was a good weekend.”
Lavertu, a six-foot-three, 300-pound lineman from Laval, and Foucault finished the season ranked second and third, respectively, on the CFL scouting bureau’s top-15 prospects for this year’s draft. McGill tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who ended up No. 1, didn’t attend as he’ll hold his pro day in Montreal next week for both NFL and CFL officials.
That left the offensive line contingent with three of the remaining four top-ranked players — Simon Fraser’s Matthias Goossen ended the year at No. 5. The other was fourth-ranked St. Francis receiver Devon Bailey.
Ottawa Redblacks scout Miles Gorrell, who played 19 CFL seasons as an offensive lineman, gushed about the O-line talent at the combine.
“Their footwork and hand placement are very good, it’s clear they’re well coached,” Gorrell said. “You see guys like Pierre Lavertu, David Foucault and Matthias Goossen stepping up to the plate and being able to prove to the coaches and scouts they’re ready to take the next step.
“But a kid like Jaskaran Dhillon of UBC really impressed me; this was his first year playing on the offensive line. I also thought Terry Hart from Mount Allison did a great job and I also liked Kyle Patterson of Regina and Aaron Wheaton from the U of T.”
Gorrell also had words of encouragement for Foucault.
“I’ll guarantee you every offensive lineman has had that day,” he said. “You consider a defensive lineman has 12 sacks in 18 games and he’s had a great year but that means the offensive line has stopped him 98 per cent of the time.
“It’s all about, ‘how many times did you stop your opponent?’ And David Foucault got beat on one play and I’d say he was out there for 30 plays so what would you grade that as? Yes, Dylan Ainsworth rolled him but it’s going to happen to the best of them … you just hope it doesn’t stay on film forever.”
Mike O’Shea, the former CFL standout linebacker who’s now the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, was impressed with Lavertu’s play.
“Polished, he looked very good,” O’Shea said. “There’s a bunch who look ready to go in the CFL and contribute right away.”
Predictably, Lavertu was hard on his performance Sunday.
“I think it was half and half,” he said. “I won some, lost some, but overall I’m satisfied.
“We were up against the best (defensive linemen) in the country and I have to show the scouts I’m one of the top-ranked players.”
Unfortunately for Lavertu and the other prospects, the CFL draft won’t be held until May 13. But Lavertu has plenty to keep himself occupied with between now and then.
“I’ll go back to the gym to make sure I am ready,” he said. “I’ll work on my core, my leg strength and my technique.”
Manitoba’s Evan Gill, the scouting bureau’s top-ranked defensive lineman at No. 6, displayed impressive brute strength Sunday. However, not having been in pads since the end of the season took its toll on the six-foot-three 300-pound Winnipeg native.
“It was tough knocking the rust off,” he said. “You’re getting a lot of reps at once and you’re getting gassed out there, it’s tough moving at that fast pace.
“But it’s not necessarily how you perform, it’s how you move, how your body works … they’re the top coaches, they’re professionals and they’ll mould you into what they want. Overall, I think the weekend was a success because I met with all nine teams and I wanted to tell them my story and I feel I accomplished that.”
Laval defensive back Adam Thibault was a standout individually. Thibault, ranked No. 13 on the CFL’s top-15 list, had the top 40-yard dash time of 4.454 seconds and also finished first in the left and right agility drills as well as the shuttle.
However Thibault, who had a personal-best 18 reps in the bench press Saturday — tops among the defensive backs — couldn’t go in the one-on-one drills due to an apparent hamstring injury.
Many prospects showed their versatility Sunday. Concordia defensive lineman Quinn Smith performed quite well lining up as an offensive lineman while both Ainsworth and Saint Mary’s Nigel Romick also worked with the linebackers. As well, Simon Fraser linebacker Casey Chin was impressive as a long-snapper.
Given the limitations of a CFL’s 42-man active roster, versatility is a much sought-after commodity by coaches and GMs.
“The more you can do, the better,” Gorrell said. “If you can carry the water jug and get the coaches doughnuts, it’s all good.”