March 14, 2023

Cauz: Imagining pitting prospects against CFL stars

Mount Allison Athletics

Admit it, you are curious about what the results will be at the upcoming CFL Combine presented by New Era. I know some of you don’t want to admit it, but the fact is the combine is like ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians:’ you say you never watch, yet you know a wee bit too much about Khloé’s new line of skin care products.

The skeptic says who wants to gaze at offensive linemen in their underwear running 40 yards, but the true sports fan knows the combine is more than just crazy cone drills. There will be so many fascinating human-interest stories going on in Edmonton starting on March 22. This is the time of year where collegiate all-stars get a chance to boost their draft stock while other relatively unknown players see this as an opportunity to make a name for themselves and show the CFL world they deserve a chance.

CFL COMBINE presented by New Era
» View The Roster: 2023 CFL Combine participants
How March testing led to Nov. celebrations for the Argos
» O’Leary: SMU shines at Invitational Combine

Also, who doesn’t like dipping in and seeing who ran the fastest or jumped the furthest? I’m not going to lie, I have spent more time than I care to admit looking back at the annual results scanning to find my favourite current players to see how they did during their big football audition. When you consider the stakes there is far more actual human drama going on in Edmonton than any Kardashian/Jenner photo shoot. I’ll happily take football scouts with stop watches over influencers with ring lights.

I can’t break down all the Canadian collegiate prospects with any real authority; that’s why we have Marshall Ferguson. However, as a more than causal observer of all things combine, I have put together a list of some of the top Canadian players who will be taking part and what I would love to see them accomplish that is quite different from the standard set of drills and tests.

Lake Korte-Moore, defensive line, UBC

Lake Korte-Moore’s first test at the CFL level could come on special teams  (UBC Athletics)

After watching his highlight tape, I am so close to predicting Korte-Moore will have multiple double-digit sack seasons, but then I take a deep breath and remind myself that I am not a scout. I have no doubt he will be among the leaders in any of the drills he takes part in. I want to set up the Janarion Juke Drill.

This is where Moore would have to spearhead a punt coverage team and do his best to not bite on Grant’s initial fake and try to keep the Blue Bombers’ return specialist in check. The journey for so many prospects usually starts on special teams before cracking a starting lineup so let’s see how Moore fares in one of the toughest coverage assignments.

Siriman Harrison Bagayogo, defensive back, Guelph

Bagayogo has all the physical measurements any general manager is looking for. Anyone who went from not playing organized football at the high school level to being first-team All-Canadian must be crazy talented, so I have no doubt he has the speed to keep up with receivers and the strength to bring them down.

That’s why Bagayogo will be put through a series of screen pass recognition tests. I want to see how this U Sports standout does processing an opposing offence’s pass attack and how quickly he can blow up the play behind the line of scrimmage. We’re adding an extra degree of difficulty by making the running back in this scenario James Buter, who led all CFL running back in receiving yards.

Anthony Bennett, defensive line, Regina

Forget the 3-cone shuttle drill, I want to see how Bennett, who put up nine sacks in his final season with the Rams, holds up in the Stanley Bryant Drill. That’s where an edge rusher lines up against the Bombers’ beast and for three quarters you are not allowed to get past Bryant (if you can at all!). You just get beat up at the point of attack. The true test comes in the fourth quarter, say after 20 reps of punishment.

At this point the prospect can use whatever he has in his arsenal of tricks to take down the quarterback. Not only does this drill test your overall physical fortitude but it also determines if a player can still maintain a high level of play even after experiencing nothing but “failure.” Ask any defensive end and they’ll tell you tales of going up against the future hall of famer.

Clark Barnes, wide receiver, Guelph

Clark Barnes will put his speed to the test at the Combine and will test it again in a few months’ time against some top-end defensive backs (Guelph Athletics)

Let’s see how this dynamic receiver does in The Peters Drill. You want to know how good the next wave of receivers are? Let’s see how they do matched up against Jamal and Garry Peters. I’m not interested in how fast you are. I just want to see the amount of separation you can create against these All-Star defensive backs. Having a 4.45-second 40 looks great on a resume but shaking free from these predators and making life easier for your quarterback will immediately put you in the good graces of your future offensive coordinator.

Jacob Taylor, linebacker, Alberta

Do you remember the gameshow ‘Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?’ where adults would go up against children in an IQ battle that usually ended with humiliation?

Well, for linebackers that are sub-220-pounds, we have a similar contest. It’s called ‘Can you Tackle a Toronto Argonauts Running Back?’ This one doesn’t require much explanation. Taylor has plenty of experience playing in the secondary during his U SPORTS career. I just want to see if he can take down 220-pound Andrew Harris in open space or stop A.J. Ouellette on third-and-short. Taylor should be up to the challenge. He once had defensive end responsibilities as a member of the Golden Bears’ defence.

Michael Brodrique, linebacker, Montreal

This quote from a Jim Morris profile of Brodrique stuck out for me: “I want to show I can run to the quarterback. I also want to show I can run as well as any player on the field and I can cover a lot of ground during passes, on special teams, or any situation in a game.”

All right, you want to show everyone you can run. Fine, let’s see how swift you are in a game I like to call Catch The Elk. We get one field, one star Carabins linebacker and two Edmonton quarterbacks. One is Tre Ford, who ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash last year and the other is Taylor Cornelius, who led all CFL quarterbacks in rushing. I know Cornelius is lanky, but the dude still averaged over seven yards a carry in 2022. Michael, all the scouts are going to time how long it takes you to catch these two quarterbacks, so you better get running!

James Peter, linebacker, Ottawa

A standout linebacker at Ottawa, James Peter will graduate to making plays against top pros like Dalton Schoen (University of Ottawa Athletics)

A first-team U SPORTS All-Canadian in his last year with the Gee-Gees, let’s put him to the ultimate test. How does he fair covering Dalton Schoen in the red zone? I don’t expect him to shut down the CFL leader in touchdown receptions. I’m just curious if Peter can hold his own and make the first-year CFL All-Star work for each score. Think of this as an iron sharpens iron style drill.

Reece Martin, defensive line, Mount Allison

Yes the broad jump is a good measurement for just how explosive a prospect is. I’m sure it does a swell job to gauge a players’ lower body strength, but instead, why not a good old-fashioned game of tug-of-war? You want to know what must-see TV looks like? It’s a six-foot-three, near 300-pound defensive linemen like Reece Martin (pictured at the top of our story) at the end of one rope with either Sean McEwen, Brandon Revenberg or Patrick Neufeld at the other end! Again I’m not asking for Martin to best any of these All-Star o-linemen, but I want to see if he can at least make them sweat. If all goes well with Martin, he will one day be lined up against these elite linemen.

Phillip Grohovac, offensive line, Western

In 2021, Calgary offensive lineman Carter Comeau led all draft hopefuls with 32 reps in the bench press. A memorable achievement for sure but what if you replaced traditional weights with a 300-pound star defensive linemen? I’m not sure if Jake Ceresna would volunteer for such a bizarre assignment but I for one would love to see just how many times the six-foot-four, 315-pound offensive linemen could bench press a potential future foe.

The comment system on this website is now powered by the Forums. We'd love for you to be part of the conversation; click the Start Discussion button below to register an account and join the community!