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The Eastern and Ontario Regional Combines have come and gone, with 10 deserving candidates earning a trip to the big show in Winnipeg approaching quickly.
As we near Mark’s CFL Week, it’s time to introduce the possible future standouts invited to the national scouting combine for a multi-day gauntlet of team interviews, workouts and one-on-ones.
If you love the CFL the way I do, you understand that U Sports is the natural feeder system, and the quality of the Canadian game’s coaching and organizations from youth leagues through university directly affects the quality of national player.
While much time over the next two months will be spent chronicling the journeys of those fresh off a U Sports season, there are plenty of talented players invited to Winnipeg from the NCAA.
Three national defensive linemen will have the chance to impress with their numbers and pass rushing skills. Bo Banner of Central Washington, Julien Laurent of Georgia State and Norvell McGlaun of Indiana State will undoubtedly battle for the title of best available defensive big man and should all post explosive testing numbers.
At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Banner was named conference defensive lineman of the year in the GNAC while using his quick first step and recognition skills to constantly pester the opposing backfield.
Georgia State big man Julien Laurent is from Toronto originally and features the type of body and physicality that is sure to make him a high draft pick to any team looking to add more interior defensive line depth.
McGlaun is an undersized interior tackle but his low-to-the-ground frame and powerful bottom half had many teams sending two blockers consistently against one of the Sycamores’ best run stuffers.
At linebacker, Michigan State’s Sean Harrington stands 6-foot-4, weighing 227 pounds and bringing a wealth of special teams experience. Harrington recovered from an Achilles injury in 2016, which forced him to miss the season, to play in 13 games this past fall for the Spartans.
NCAA first round draft picks, by year
|YEAR||1ST ROUND NCAA PICKS|
Mathieu Loiselle comes to the national combine via Wagner College in Staten Island, New York. Similar to Harrington, Loiselle brings a special teams resume to Winnipeg while totaling 20 solo tackles, three sacks and seven tackles for loss as a captain in his senior season.
On offence, the NCAA is represented by just three participants, all from varying positions and backgrounds.
Offensive lineman Peter Godber of Rice originated from St. Andrews College in Aurora, Ont. and played in over 95 per cent of the Owls games after redshirting in 2013. Godber served as a reliable anchor to the Rice line while swinging comfortably from left guard to right guard and back seamlessly. No doubt an attractive trait for CFL evaluators.
This year there is a national quarterback invited to the national combine via the NCAA. Christian Strong of Seton Hill came to the Greensburg, Pennsylvania University Griffons from Brampton, Ont. and stands a strong 6-foot-4, 215 pounds in the pocket. In 2016 he tied a school single-game record with five touchdown passes, going 28-of-44 for 447 yards.
With the positive influence of Brandon Bridge – another national NCAA pivot – and Andrew Buckley, there is real momentum for Strong to take advantage of in the national quarterback conversation.
Mark’s CFL week is free to attend but the dueling arms of Strong’s big frame against Regina standout and 2016 Hec Crighton award winner Noah Picton would be more than worth the price of admission.
The final NCAA invitee is Mark Chapman of Central Michigan. Chapman started all 12 games this season for Chippewa, earning third team All-MAC honours. He led Central Michigan in both receptions (54) and receiving yards (805). Chapman also adds return game experience and should test well if his background doesn’t already draw interest.
This group of NCAA talent features some of the first names likely to come off the board on draft night, but first they must make their way to Winnipeg in hopes of earning the early round accolades.