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Maciocia: ‘We got a little bit better as a football club’ in 2020 CFL Draft

MONTREAL — The Montreal Alouettes were able to return to the postseason in 2019, and ahead of this season, they were able to solidify their new front office personnel.

Since being hired alongside fellow Quebec native Mario Cecchini back in January, new Alouettes general manager Danny Maciocia has made it a priority to add local talent that can impact the Als in 2020 and beyond.

After serving as the head coach at the University of Montreal over the previous decade, the Alouettes’ draft was unsurprisingly filled with notable names from both the Carabins and RSEQ, as well as some top talents from across the country.

“Some of these kids I coached, some I recruited and ended up going elsewhere,” Maciocia said. “Winning those Dunsmore Cups and being able to get out of your conference and face other teams, that gave me an opportunity to gameplan against them, so it also gave me an opportunity to evaluate them accordingly.

“We felt like we had enough information on them that we felt we were comfortable selecting them where we selected them. To a certain extent, it was beneficial. I think we took advantage of certain circumstances that weren’t necessarily favourable to everyone. We’re quite comfortable with the players we selected and moving forward, it addresses certain positions, and at the same time, we got a little bit better as a football club.”


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The Montreal Alouettes selected University of Montreal defensive back Marc-Antoine Dequoy with the 14th overall pick in the 2020 CFL Draft. (James Hajjar)

The Als stayed put with their pair of second-rounders in the draft rather than moving up. At No. 14, they selected Montreal defensive back Marc Antione Dequoy, who earned a contract with the Green Bay Packers with his athleticism, ability and instincts in the defensive backfield.

Across his four years with the program, Dequoy appeared in 28 games, putting up 94 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, nine interceptions, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. 

For his career, Dequoy is a three-time RSEQ Defensive All-Star (2017, 2018, 2019), a U SPORTS second-team All-Canadian (2018) and a U SPORTS first-team All-Canadian (2019). He was also named the RSEQ Defensive Player of the Year in 2018.

“There’s no bigger fan of Marc-Antoine than me,” Maciocia said. “I hope that he has his chance to realize his dream south of the border. But we’ve had many discussions leading up to the draft and he made it crystal clear to me that he was hoping that we were going to pick him. If the opportunity did present itself, this is a place he wanted to play.

“When our turn came up and he was still available, to me, it was a no brainer. And we’re willing to wait, even if it’s a couple of years. We’re willing to invest in a young man that we believe has huge upside and is probably one of the best players coming out of the draft.”

He was also joined by Carabins teammates Benoit Marion (25th overall) and Brian Harelimana (33rd overall). Following the Dequoy selection, Montreal added to their pass rush, selecting Queen’s defensive lineman Cameron Lawson with the 16th pick.

During his career with the Queen’s Gaels, Lawson has played in 32 games, posting 80.5 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and two fumble recoveries. 

Lawson was named an OUA All-Star and a U SPORTS second-team All-Canadian this past season. He was also named an OUA second-team All-Star in 2017 and 2018, respectively. 

He was the best interior defensive lineman available in Maciocia’s mind and he’s someone who can help bolster the Als’ efforts to get to the quarterback while also assisting with the ratio in the process.

One of the most intriguing picks of the draft was Carter O’Donnell, who the Als scooped up with the No. 22 pick in the draft. The Red Deer, Alta., native played his U SPORTS ball with the University of Alberta, being named a Canada West All-Star and U SPORTS First-Team All-Canadian at tackle.

O’Donnell was widely considered the most talented blocker in the 2020 class and someone who had the potential to be special in the CFL. However, ahead of the draft, he signed a deal with the Indianapolis Colts after the 2020 NFL Draft. That dropped his stock in Thursday’s draft and saw him slide all the way to the third round.

“There was no way we could have passed him up in the third round,” Maciocia said. “We were talking at the beginning of the round that if he fell to us, we had to take him because he was just too good of a football player. I know that he’s signed with the Colts. I know his coach, Chris Morris, really well — he played for me in Edmonton so I got all the information I needed regarding Carter.

“I think he’s got a huge upside and he may just stick south of the border. But coach Morris did make me understand that if he did become available, he’s the kind of kid that would start for you day one. I thought in the third round, he was worth the pick and the investment.”

Montreal concluded its selections with Regina offensive lineman Andrew Becker (49th overall), Concordia linebacker Jersey Henry (51st overall), Concordia receiver Vincent Alessandrini (60th overall), Manitoba defensive lineman Brock Gowanlock (66th overall) and Saskatchewan receiver Colton Klassen (69th overall).

“These guys are going to come in and push our veterans, which is exactly what we want them to do,” Maciocia said. “And we have a couple of other kids that we know have eligibility to go back to school, so we’re going to invest some time in them, they’re going to go back to their respective programs and hopefully, we’ll see them in 2021.”

It’s safe to say that the Als were thrilled with bringing in Maciocia as general manager at the beginning of the year due to his knowledge and ability to scout talent, and after the draft, he was able to land some solid talents who will be able to make an impact in Montreal in the near future, if not right away.