ALBERTA GRIZZLIES / WESTERN DIVISION
Quarterbacks: In his tenth IPFC season, Derrick Lane completed 158 of 266 passes for 2,064 yards and 11 touchdowns. He ended the season with an 86.8 QB Rating, 682 rushing yards and another All-Pro selection. Entering his eleventh season, Lane is slowing down a bit and becoming more of pocket passer but will need to move when his fragile offensive line collapses.
Alberta is sitting on a gold mine with back-up Joshua Gauthier. Gauthier is a stout, conventional pocket passer and is prepared to start. The main difference between Gauthier and Lane is Gauthier inability to manage an effective run game and escape pass rushers.
Running Backs: Alberta will focus offensive
efforts around 2015 Offensive Rookie-of-the-Year Running Back Kevin
Blanchard. In 2015, Blanchard ran for
896 yards, averaged 5.6 yards per carry and finished fourth on the IPFC in
rushing. Through the air, Blanchard was
ranked second for team receptions (38) and second in receiving yards
(471). Blanchard’s 471 receiving yards
also tied Windsor’s Rodney Allen to lead all IPFC running backs. This season, Blanchard could lead the team in
both rushing and receiving yards. With
his increased red zone IQ, Blanchard should see more pay dirt.
Fullbacks: Sophomores Darryl Harrison and Leon Jensen continue improving. Both will be used on the field in their own capacities. Harrison will be used in the ground and pound game while Jensen will be used during the passing situations.
Receivers: After finishing his one year contract with Alberta, staff agreed not to re-sign Kirk McCord. McCord had a dismal season catching only 23 passes for 315 and no touchdowns. To advance Alberta’s receivers, they traded back-up Running Back Kevin Pierce to Vancouver for Receiver Brian Bender. Last season, Bender caught 42 passes for 541 yards and 3 touchdowns. Bender has decent speed and reliable hands. He is expected to be the team’s primary receiver.
Peace, Antonio Dailey and Rico Montanez are back for 2016. Despite missing three games last season, Peace
caught 25 passes for 340 yards and led the team with five touchdown receptions. If Peace can stay healthy, he will be a deep
threat once again. As for Montanez, he
will catch some passes in 2016 but will not lead the team receptions or yards
as he did last season.
Offensive Line: Alberta’s offensive front’s strength is moving the ball on the ground. Their weakness is not protecting their quarterback; analysts ranked them worst in the league in pass protection. The lines inability to protect Derrick Lane will limit their effectiveness through the air and force the offense to stay with the run game. Due to the foreseen, season long, blitzkrieg of pass rushers, Alberta’s best offensive scheme will be a strong running game which should create quality play action downfield passes. Their second best scheme would be dump offs to Kevin Blanchard when he escapes the backfield.
Defensive Line: 2015 All-Pro Roger Davidson is taking a backseat to rookie Brandon Goulet. (Many analysts believe Davidson’s All-Pro season was a fluke.) Goulet is equal to Davidson as a pass rusher but is a better option against the run. Davidson will still see a lot of playing time and will replace run stopper Jeremy Snyder during passing situations. Defensive Captain Rayshawn Miles returns for his eleventh season but has lost a step. In totality, Alberta will be one of the softest pass rushing lines in the league but should be respectable against the run.
Linebackers: Tyrone Reed left Alberta looking for a stronger team and signed with Windsor. To fill his vacancy at middle linebacker, Alberta traded versatile LB Terrence Hicks, veteran LB Ray Zavala and a fourth round pick to Saskatoon for Linebackers Ross Mills and Calvin Keller. Mills captained Saskatoon’s defense for almost the past decade. He is a prolific run stopper but very limited in pass coverage.
2014 Defensive Rookie-of-the-Year and 2015 Defensive MVP Jean-Francois Giguere should continue his impressive accomplishments. Last season, he led the league in sacks (10-tied), had a tackle-for-loss, forced two (2) fumbles, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble. As a French Canadian, Quebec Liberté fans are patiently waiting for 2017 when Giguere earns his free agency status and could return home.
Defensive Backs: Alberta’s defensive
backfield is a set of young hard workers.
Kenny Richardson (University of Fort Worth, ACFA) was selected in the
second round and Safety Bradley Leonard (National University, ACFA) was
selected in the third round. Richardson
is a decent cover man who can help with the run. He replaces Rashad Powell who signed with
Vancouver. Leonard replaces Devon
Dreschler and is an upgrade in pass coverage.
Dreschler remains with the team.
Eddie Forbes and Floyd James are the only two remaining starters from 2015. Forbes is an elite shut down cover man but is injury prone. As for James, this is his second season with Alberta. In his first season with the team, he was selected to the All-Pro team after leading the league with seven (7) interceptions, one which he returned for a touchdown.
HALIFAX SCHOONERS / EASTERN DIVISION
Quarterbacks: Mark McClellan disappointed Schooner fans in 2015 who had originally been ranked the number one pivot in the league. McClellan’s stock soon fell. At the end of the season, he had a four and eight record as a starter and failed to lead to the league in any passing categories. Furthermore, he never passed for more than 300 yards in a game and only had three multiple touchdown pass games.
For 2016, McClellan should improve and could even possibly impress. The twenty-seven year old still has great football IQ, a strong, accurate arm and great field vision. He is also a leader on and off the field. These are all components which make a champion. With improving and better talent now around him, McClellan should have more time in the pocket to find his young and explosive receivers.
Running Backs: Ntwannu Nyamadi can dominate teams by powering the ball up the middle then surprising them on the outside. He is considered to have some of the best hands in the league and should rarely lose the ball. Last year, he rushed for 861 yards on 146 carries and scored 11 touchdowns. Nyamadi continues to improve and impress as he progressing in his career. If Halifax plays it right, Nyamadi should contend for the 2016 rushing title and be a significant force for a Cartier Bowl run.
Fullbacks: Like many other Halifax offensive players, Fullback Ron Lapointe has made improvements to his pass blocking game for the upcoming season. Although, his primary purpose will be to block for McClellan and Nyamadi, he will take handoffs and occasionally have the ball thrown his way.
Receivers: Chase Patterson is the best receiver in the league. Not only is he one of the league’s fastest receivers but he also has some of the most reliable hands. Patterson is also not afraid to lay out defenders to open up lanes for Halifax running backs. Patterson and Mark McClellan’s chemistry is almost un-matched since they spent their entire college careers together at Northridge University. The rest of Halifax’s starting receiving corps is an array of speed who seeks the end zone.
Offensive Line: If they can remain healthy, Halifax’s offensive line could go down as one of the IPFC’s best. The line is anchored by Laurence Patterson, Centre Frankie Ivankovic and Guard Angelo Newton. With eight seasons under his shoulder pads, Patterson is considered the best offensive lineman in the league. He is a combination of strength and power with a superior aptitude to protect the quarterback and open lanes for runners. This year he moved to left guard from right tackle.
Ivankovic is considered one of the best centres in the league next to Quebec’s
Taylor Yarbrough. As for Angelo Newton, he
put on weight and increased strength for his sophomore season. The combination of Newton and Patterson is a
godsend for Halifax runners. To further
protect Mark McClellan’s blind side, Halifax selected Richard Cote third
overall in the draft.
Defensive Line: Halifax has a good defensive line with the forte of vigorously pursuing opponent quarterbacks. Brandon Watts and Matt Coulson are considered the most treacherous best pass rushing duo. In his second year with Halifax and fifth year in the league, Paul Lundy is adjusting well to his move to the interior of the line. Vincent Draper was selected in the third round of the draft and will replace Geoffrey Wilson as a starter.
Linebackers: Dorian Summers, Shawn Russell and rookie Carl Kowalski give Halifax a strong group of linebackers who will be effective against the pass and run. The three are a contributing factor for Halifax’s highly regarded defence. Summers was born and raised on a ranch in Billings, Montana and graduated from Wayne University (ACFA) in 2012. This is the third straight season he has been named one of the league’s top three linebackers by IPFC Journal.
Defensive Backs: Kyle Roderick, Lamar Beck, Eric Arnaux, Josh Fisher and Reggie Chapman are back together again for another season. Along with Vancouver, Halifax is one of the premier defensive backfields. Their efforts are led by elite defender Lamar Beck. Beck was named Halifax’s Defensive Captain after Nick Hayes was left unprotected and selected by Niagara in the 2015 expansion draft. After one year in Niagara and eighteen years in the IPFC, Hayes traded in his cleats for a Halifax front office suit.
LONDON LUMBERJACKS / EASTERN DIVISION / 2015 CARTIER BOWL CHAMPIONS
Quarterbacks: After their 2015 Cartier Bowl Championship season, rumors ran amok among Lumberjack Nation, the league and IPFC’s sister league, Football America. It was rumored 2015 IPFC MVP, J’Marcus Urban, was leaving the IPFC. These rumors were later confirmed true by both IPFC and Football American Commissioners. However, the ultimate decision was made for Urban to remain in London.
In last year’s MVP season, the Alabama native completed 210 of 322 passes (65%)
for 3098 yards, 18 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. On the ground, he ran for 918 yards and 8
touchdowns on 107 carries. On the leader
boards, he led the IPFC in QB Passer Rating (104.8), completion percentage,
passing yards, passing touchdowns, pass playing going for 50+ yards, passing
yards per attempt and passing yards per game.
He was number three in the IPFC for rushing yards and led the league
with a rushing average of 8.6 yards per carry.
Going into his fourth season, Urban will be nursing a knee injury sustained during training camp. If healthy, Urban will make another run for the Cartier Bowl and league MVP. If not, it will be up to veteran back-up Elliott Chaase to run London’s offence.
Running Backs: London signed long time Quebec back-up Running Back Andy Barnes and named him as their starter. Although Barnes is not a long term solution and won’t lead the league or team in yards, he is a better option than 2015 first round draft pick Blake Thornton. In his rookie season, Thornton rushed for 207 yards on 52 carries. He had a dismal rushing average of 4.0 yards per carry, the lowest in the league among starting running backs. As for Barnes, he rushed for 124 yards on 21 carries for an average of 5.9 yard per carry.
Fullbacks: London’s second leading rusher last season, Tim Sullivan, is taking a back seat to DeRelle Collins. At twenty-six years old, six foot and 245 pounds, Collins is a bit younger and a lot more overpowering than Sullivan. With a nagging knee injury to Urban, Collins should be a key element to London’s running game.
Receivers: London has their four past and potential All-Pro receivers back in the starting line-up. In 2015, Leodis Perry, Jabari Harper, Joe Barnett and Kyle Laurence caught a combined 204 passes for 2,983 yards and 21 touchdowns. The remaining London players caught 35 passes for 457 yards and one touchdown. This foursome is the most experience receiving corps in the league. Looking towards the future, London added fourth round draft pick Delmer Newman who will replace DeRelle Collins during passing situations. London’s receiver depth leaves their quarterbacks with quality options throughout the season.
Offensive Line: London’s starting offensive line is aging but has the same faces. In 2015, Tackles Pete Miniacci, Gene Hart and Guard Robert Nelson were selected as members of the All-Pro team. The three played key roles in protecting J’Marcus Urban during London’s championship season. Hart, entering his twelfth season, has lost some quickness off the snap and probably won’t see another All-Pro selection. However, he will still be reliable. This line is considered one of the best in the IPFC.
Defensive Line: Rickey Harvey is a ten year veteran who has been selected to the All-Pro team multiple times including last season. In their 2015 championship season, Harvey led the league in sacks (10- tied) and played key roles against the run. He is named as one of the top three defensive linemen for 2016.
On the line next to Harvey are two rookie newcomers. Kelvin Burnside, a graduate of Western Vancouver University, is a decent pass rusher who shows potential against the run. The key for Burnside will be remaining healthy for the entire season. The second newcomer is Brad Knutson. Knutson replaces big man Rich Hughley who signed with Vancouver. Knutson spent five years at Halifax University, redshirting his freshman year. Almost identical to Hughley in size, Knutson is a genuine run-plugger.
Linebackers: London signed
free agent Gil Escalante who will play across the field from Drew St. Pierre. Last year with Quebec, Escalante stacked up
eight (8) sacks, four (4) tackles-for-loss and recovered two fumbles, one for a
touchdown in his All Pro season. St.
Pierre, who continues to mature, was just as remarkable with five (5) sacks,
four (4) tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble.
Brad Carr, London’s defensive captain and middle linebacker, is back for his eleventh season. Last season, Carr produced three (3) sacks, five (5) tackles-for-loss, a forced fumble, recovered two (2) fumbles and made another All Pro team. Like many middle linebackers, Carr is dominate against the run but will be replaced by a defensive back during passing situations.
Defensive Backs: London has a middling backfield led by eight year veteran Gerald Riley. Riley has plenty of speed, hands and the ability to knock down incoming passes. In his 2015 All-Pro season, Riley picked off three passes for 111 yards and one touchdown. Besides his coverage skills, Riley also has ample field vision and is valuable against the run.
NIAGARA NIGHTFALL / EASTERN DIVISION
Quarterbacks: Just like 2015, ten year veteran Hugo Hale is still considered to have the most accurate arm and best field vision in the league. He also brings mobility when he needs it. Some analysts argue Hale is the best Quarterback in the league because he is able to make something out of nothing. This was evident in Niagara’s inaugural season where he was sacked a league leading thirty-four (34) times.
In 2015, Hale led the league in passes completed (230), second in completion percentage (62%), second in passing yards (2,952), second in touchdowns thrown (17) and only threw three interceptions in 369 pass attempts. This was all done while getting sacked a league leading 34 times. As for 2016, with improvements to his receiving core and rookie Eric Stewart at running back, Hale could lead the league in multiple passing categories and lead Niagara to a winning season.
Running Backs: Myles Roe was not what Niagara’s hoped for when they selected him in the 2nd round of expansion draft last season. He only picked up 308 yards on 76 carries for an average carry of 4.1 yards. Roe was released soon after the 2015 season ended. He was eventually signed by Vancouver.
Niagara used their third round draft pick for Running Back Eric Stewart. Stewart, a graduate of Eastern Colonial in the ACFA (American Collegiate Football Association), is a solid fit for Niagara’s offence. He is not only a balanced, dependable runner but he can also catch passes and pick up barraging defenders. However, Stewart will not be asked to carry the ground game by himself. Fullback Milt Smyke and back-up Running Back Laurence Brewer will also see some carries.
Fullbacks: Milt Smyke is a reliable power runner who can run block, pass block and catch passes. In his second IPFC season, compared to other fullbacks, Smyke finished second in rushing yards (299) and tied for first in touchdowns (3).
Receivers: Niagara’s 2016 receiving corps will be led Corbin Keyes, Von Barber and Randall Wilson. Twenty-six year old Keyes was a 2015 All-Pro selection and is undoubtedly the fastest receiver in the league. Von Barber, out of St. John University (New Brunswick), is entering his sophomore season. Despite lacking speed, Barber is a large target across the middle and can move the ball. However, he is still looking for his first IPFC touchdown. To mentor Keyes and Barber, Niagara signed 14 year veteran, 2015 All-Pro and former Windsor Wide Receiver Randall Wilson. If he can remain healthy, Wilson should compete to be Niagara’s top receiver.
Offensive Line: Niagara’s offensive line is considered one of the worst pass protectors in the league next to Alberta. In 2015, Niagara the line allowed Hugo Hale to be sacked a league leading 34 times for 323 yards. Despite all this abuse, Hale was tough and didn’t sustain any significant injuries. For 2016, Hale is going to have to continue his toughness as Niagara will continue their pass attack offence.
As for the running game, Niagara’s line is sufficient and has
no significant weakness. The movement
of Jeff Stahl to right tackle and the enriched play of Right Guard Stephanie
Sarro will have a positive impact when they run the ball on the right side of
Defensive Line: Niagara’s defensive line has decent pass rushers on the outside and a concrete wall in the middle. Five year veteran Rogers Paquette and rookie Scott Whitfield will make opposing offences think twice about running the ball their way. Last season, Paquette led the league with ten (10) tackles-for-loss and has improved since. With the retirement of Defensive Back and Captain Nick Hayes, Paquette was named the new defensive leader. Whitfield, out of Northridge University, was selected number one overall in the draft and is on par with Paquette’s ability to plug running lanes. However, he is more agile on the pass rush. Whitfield should have a very good season and career.
Linebackers: Developing newborns. These are the
only words to described Niagara’s linebackers. David Black, Jon Townsend
and Oscar Vaughn combine for two years of experience. Vaughn, a rookie out of Rideau College
(CCFA), was selected during the second round.
Vaughn brings a good understanding of Canadian football and will be
valuable against the pass and run.
Although his playing time was limited in 2015 because of injury, Black was voted Defensive Rookie of the Year. In six games he stacked up three (3) sacks and two (2) tackles-for-loss. While out half of last year’s season, Townsend replaced Black and coped well. He finished the season with a sack, a tackle-for-loss and an interception. Both Black and Townsend are still working on their ability to read the run.
Backs: After eighteen years in
the league, Defensive Captain Nick Hayes retired. Hayes finished his last season with Niagara
after he was acquired in the expansion draft.
Hayes hung up his cleats and went back to Halifax to work in the front
Niagara is still building their secondary. Only recently signed Duane Lambert and fourth round pick Scott Morris would be considered worthy starters by other teams. Rookie Jeremy Weiss, sophomore Patrick Yates and veteran Leslie Fleming are merely bodies filling positions. If Niagara can secure Lambert for additional seasons, he could be the backbone of the defense. With seven years of experience, Lambert is among the best defensive players in the league.
QUEBEC LIBERTÉ / EASTERN DIVISION
Quarterbacks: In 2015, Quebec experimented with a two Quarterback system in which Bruce Kennedy and Sean Miller rotated series. During this off season, this system came to an end with the trade of Bruce Kennedy to Saskatoon. This leaves Sean Miller as the starter. Analysts believe Sean Miller is a much better fit for Quebec’s run balanced offence. Miller has good throwing strength, great mobility and is explosive speed on the run. In comparison to last year, his overall football IQ and field vision have improved. Miller’s mobility will create complications for defenses; they will have a hard time containing him while covering receivers.
Running Backs: Although Cedric Foster missed a chance to win the Cartier Bowl with London in 2015, he is quite at home with his role in Quebec. Foster finished second to Saskatoon’s Gordon Wendell in rushing yards, total yards from scrimmage and touchdowns scored. With Wendell’s aging decline, Foster should be at the top of those lists this season. Furthermore, with variations to Quebec’s receiving corps, Foster should see more passes thrown his way. Foster could make his own Cartier Bowl run in 2016.
Fullbacks: Fan favorite and Quebec City native Pierre Levesque is a respectable run blocker who will come off the field during passing situations.
After ten seasons with Quebec, sure-handed Jerome Bell has moved on and
signed with Windsor. This was
heartbreaking for Liberté fans.
Unfortunately, Bell wanted a change and to play for a team more
dedicated to the pass. Returning for his
twelfth season is Lonnie Peterson.
Peterson is slowly declining but is still respected by defenders. Last season saw further advancement from the
2014 Comeback Player of the Year, Mel Matthews.
In 2015, the now twenty-nine year old slot back caught 46 passes for a
league leading 959 yards and earned his first All-Pro selection.
Offensive Line: Quebec’s line is focused around Taylor Yarbrough. Entering into his eighth season, Yarbrough is still ranked the top centre in the league. In 2015, Yarbrough and Left Guard Jon Fenerty were selected to the All-Pro team. This year, Yarbrough is believed to be a shoe-in for another selection. Tackle Zackary McConnell is hopeful to also make the list with him. As for Fenerty, a nagging shoulder injury could keep him on the sidelines. For added insurance, Quebec selected Seth Muller in the third round and Michael Light in the fourth round of the draft. Overall, this talented line should be very effective at protecting the quarterback and open running holes.
Defensive Line: Much
like other defensive players in their draft class, Cedric Brockman and Logan Wentworth
are looking to make an immediate impact for their team. Brockman, selected sixth overall in the draft,
spent the last two years tormenting quarterbacks at Western Colonial
(ACFA). Wentworth, selected in the
second round, spent the last four years with Kelvin Burnside at Western
Vancouver University. Brockman is a
perfect blend of speed and strength; he will explode off the snap and power
towards the quarterback. Wentworth is an
upgrade from Curtis Parker who retired after eight (8) quality seasons. Brockman and Wentworth will be supported by
veterans Darrell Campbell and Zander Wallace.
Linebackers: Despite some personnel movement, Quebec has one of the strongest set of linebackers in the IPFC. Including Jovan Ridgely, the best linebacker in the league, Quebec is capable of covering receivers, attacking the quarterback and chastising ball carriers. With the loss of All-Pro Gil Escalate to division rival London, back-up Zach Meyer gets his first chance to start. Meyer originally started his IPFC career with London but has spent the last two years in Quebec as a situational player. Meyer is a quality replacement.
Last season, Cody Richardson was moved from safety to middle linebacker. This caused Thomas Pszsczonak, in his sophomore season, to lose his starting job. This season, Richardson is moving back to safety and Pszsczonak has moved back up the depth chart. Undrafted rookie Karl Kennedy (Middleton College, CCFA) was signed as a situational linebacker.
Backs: Quebec’s secondary is stacked with experience and talent. Cody Richardson, Demetrius Price, Glen
Jenkins and Jumelle Duran combine for 28 years of expertise. Duran is ranked as one of the overall finest secondary
men in the league and Richardson is one of the preeminent defenders against the
run. Cody Richardson retains his role as
the defensive captain to one of the best overall defences in the IPFC.
To adjust for the departures of Ray Porter and Rodarius Spencer, Quebec moved Richardson to safety and traded with Saskatoon for Ryan Higgins and Cameron King. Higgins is well rounded and fills Spencer’s opening at the corner. King will be inserted in games for passing packages.
SASKATOON METEORS / WESTERN DIVISION
Quarterbacks: Despite Saskatoon being the Cartier Bowl Runner-Up, Max Carter is out and signed back with Vancouver. Carter will try to jump start Vancouver’s weakened offence. After three years of playing in Quebec, Bruce Kennedy returns to Saskatoon in a multi-player trade. Although he had a significant statistical decline in 2015, Kennedy is still considered a quality field manager who has the strongest arm in the league. Kennedy’s decline was due to Quebec run-first, pass-second offence and splitting time on the field with Sean Miller. With the physical decline of future Hall-of-Fame Running Back Gordon Wendell, Kennedy should have the opportunity to direct a pass balanced offence. However, his greatest struggle will be minimizing his interceptions. Kennedy is the fourth new starting quarterback in Saskatoon in four years.
Running Backs: In 2015, thirty-three year old Gordon Wendell led the league in rushing, total yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns. He rushed for 1,560 yards and 16 touchdowns on 197 carries. Wendell caught 24 passes for 268 yards and one touchdown. This totaled the league leading 1,828 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns. However, one year later, Wendell is showing great physical deterioration and lack of endurance. 2016 is expected to be his last season. Saskatoon is hoping rookie Running Backs Samuel Norton or Carl West will progress and take over for Wendell in 2017.
Fullbacks: Over the past several seasons, Jhari Darnell has been considered the best blocking fullback in the IPFC. During the 2015 season, he was given a small opportunity to demonstrate his running ability; he rushed for 132 yard on 25 carries (5.3 yard per carry average). In last year’s Cartier Bowl, he further showcased his running ability by gaining 40 yards on 5 carries. Since Gordon Wendell’s career is significantly on the decline, Darnell should double his carries from 2015.
Last year, Jermaine Holt led the league with 67 receptions. Despite leading the league in this category,
Holt is considered one of the slowest receivers in the league and had one of
the worst yards per catch averages (12.9) among receivers. Regardless of speed, the eleven year veteran
is steadfast and dependable when it counts; he also led the IPFC with 38 of his
67 catches resulting in a first down.
To balance out for Holt’s age and lack of speed, Saskatoon has sophomore Nicholas Frazier, five year veteran Seth Nowak, recently signed Eric Wexler and 4th round draft pick, Darrell Parker. Frazier and Nowak are equally dependable. Parker will start over Wexler but is considered a wildcard. Wexler was primarily signed to as Saskatoon’s new kick and punt returner but will see time on the field during passing situations.
Offensive Line: As with the past several years, Saskatoon’s line is highlighted by Guards Jerry Simpson and DeAngelo Fox. With a combined fourteen (14) years of experience, they have dominated the middle and made freeways for Saskatoon running backs. Much of Gordon Wendell’s Hall-of-Fame career can be attributed to their expertise.
Last year, Saskatoon selected Centre Lionel Moss in the third round of the draft and was named their starter. Moss was a question mark and in the end, he did not amaze coaching staff. After the 2015 season, Saskatoon sought out a new centre which they found in Glen Rosehauer. Rosehauer brings four years of first-rate blocking to Saskatoon. Moss remains with the team as a back-up lineman.
Defensive Line: Saskatoon’s defensive line will be effective at rushing the passer and stopping the run. Four years into his career, twenty-six year old Jon Ikeda is one of the best overall defensive players in the league. Not only does he punish runners, he also terrifies quarterbacks. Along with line with Ikeda are pure run stopper Oscar Lindsay, rejuvenated Evander Kashama and second round pick Nelson Dawson.
Linebackers: All three of Saskatoon’s
linebackers are new to the team. Tyrone
Goode and Matt Jayne both received contracts their former team, Vancouver, could
not match. Dan Helton was the seventh
overall pick in the draft. Goode was
selected to the All-Pro team last season.
He is able in pass coverage and owns the ‘A’, ‘B’ gaps. In his five years with Vancouver, Jayne was
proven in pass coverage, blitzing and stopping runners. Dan Helton, a graduate with a degree in
Chemistry from Durant University, reads plays well. Goode, Jayne and Helton combine as a top
secondary is acceptable against the pass and run. Though they are not the best in the league,
they are certainly not the worst. After
five years with Quebec, 2015 All-Pro Ray Porter found a new home with
Saskatoon. Porter will take of over at
safety and Toby Justice will move back to defensive halfback.
VANCOUVER COUGARS / WESTERN DIVISION
Quarterbacks: After throwing 20 interceptions
and only 10 touchdowns in 2015, Vancouver released former IPFC All-Pro and 2014
Cartier Bowl Champion Ronnie Monteverde.
Last season, Monteverde lacked focus, confidence and appeared
distracted. No team has since signed
him. It appears his five year football
career is ending.
To bolster their weakened offence, Vancouver signed Cartier Bowl Runner-Up Max Carter. Carter, who played for Vancouver in 2013 and 2014, brings ten years of experience as an effectual passer. Vancouver also selected rookie Willy Carlson in the fourth round of the draft. Carlson, a Canadian who graduated from Western Vancouver University, is a well-organized and efficient quarterback. Carter and Carlson will compete to play behind center.
Running Backs: In his first year in the IPFC, Landon Riser led Vancouver is rushing. He ran for 444 yards and 5 touchdowns on 98 carries. Despite last year’s respectable season and promising future, Riser is stepping away from the IPFC for personal reasons.
To find their next Jabari Shelton, Vancouver selected William Jacoby fifth overall in the draft and traded Wide Receiver Brian Bender to Alberta for Kevin Pierce. Jacoby has good speed and agility to move the sticks. He is also a skilled enough blocker and pass catcher to remain in the game during passing situations. Although Jacoby beat out him out for the starting role, Pierce who will still be given his share of handoffs.
Fullbacks: In 2015, Michael Kemmer led fullbacks in rushing yards with 301 yards and 3 touchdowns. Kemmer, reigning from Concord, New Hampshire, is a straight-up power runner who has little to no lateral movement. In his sixth IPFC season, Alberta’s Darryl Harrison, London’s DeRelle Collins and Windsor rookie Stephen Gray will challenge him as the fullback rushing leader.
Alex Bosch enters his fourth IPFC season as the second highest ranked
receiver next to Halifax’s Chase Patterson.
Bosch is an exceptional combination of body control, agility, focus and
soft hands. Last season, Bosch caught 62
passes for 812 yards and three touchdowns earning an All-Pro selection. Bosch will continue to provide Vancouver’s
quarterbacks with a remarkable target who dominates and frustrates defences.
With the loss of Brian Bender and Kevin Fleiszer, Vancouver selected Chris Gibbs in the third round of the draft and signed free agent Kirk McCord. Gibbs and McCord are decent receivers who understand the run game. Bosch’s main counterpart will be Remi McKinney. In 2015, McKinney finished third on the team in receiving next to Bosch and Bender. Kick and punt returner Chris Robertson will replace Fullback Michael Kemmer during passing situations.
Offensive Line: Vancouver’s line will be mediocre at pushing back pass rushers and opening lanes for their running backs. The only real highlight on the line is four year veteran Zack Fairbanks. Fairbanks is considered one of the top tackles in the league. With the loss of Centre Glen Rosehauer to Saskatoon, Vancouver struggled finding a free agent replacement. Finding none available, coaching staff named their nine year, career journeyman lineman Lloyd Barrett as the starter.
Defensive Line: Despite having one of the best backfields and linebackers in the league, Vancouver’s defense will struggle against the pass. This will be caused by very limited pressure placed on opposing quarterbacks by linemen and lack of pass coverage by two of the three linebackers. With the exception of rookie Omar Simmons, Vancouver’s defensive linemen are physically built to stop the run, not rush the passer. However, stop the run they will. Similar to Niagara’s Rogers Paquette, Scott Whitfield and Saskatoon’s Oscar Lindsay, Jon Ikeda combinations, Vancouver’s Rich Hughley and Connor Adams will also collapse the middle against opposing runners.
Linebackers: Vancouver had
great difficulty replaces Tyrone Goode and Matt Jayne who both signed with
Saskatoon. Kevin Cain, in his second
season, will take over the middle for Goode.
Cain is strong against the run but an immediate downgrade from
Goode. However, depending on Cain’s
progression, he could equal or better Goode in future seasons. To replace
Jayce, Vancouver signed nine year journeyman Richard Sanders. Comparing Jayce to Sanders is like comparing
a jewelry store to a clean litter box.
To make up for Sanders and Cain, Vancouver still has O.J. Cofield who was recently named defensive captain. Over the past two seasons, Cofield has been named to the All-Pro team and as an IPFC Journal top three linebacker. Although he will play more of a pass coverage role this year, Cofield was tied for the league lead with sacks (10) last season.
Along with Linebacker O.J. Cofield, the real saving grace for Vancouver’s
mediocre defence is their top rated backfield.
Vancouver’s backfield has three shut down defenders – John “not so”
Little, Dontel Curtis and free agent Rashad Powell. All three has five plus years of experience
and All-Pro selections. The other two
defenders, Eric Wenke and Aatifa Semere, are no slouches either. Both are reliable in pass coverage and
against the run.
WINDSOR AMBASSADORS / WESTERN DIVISION
Quarterbacks: Windsor selected Rookie Shaun Parsons number two overall in the 2015 draft. He then beat out Jeff Fountain as the signal-caller. Despite last season’s 2-10 record, the St. John University (Canadian College Football Association) graduate had a solid rookie year completing 197 of 372 passes for 2,568 yards and 14 touchdowns. Analysts across the IPFC agree Windsor’s win-loss record cannot be blamed on Parsons. Parsons offence’s scoring was ranked fourth in the league while Windsor’s points for/points allowed ratio was minus (-) 64. For 2016, Parsons has new and improved talent around him including on defense. Parsons is looking forward to a winning season where his name will be at the top of passing leader boards.
Backs: Seven year veteran Rodney
Allen has best ground game in the league.
He is a brilliant amalgam of outside speed, interior dominance and lock-down
hands. Last season, Allen ran for 612 yards and six
touchdowns on 93 carries. He finished in
the top five for yard per carry at 6.6. As
for attacking through the air, Allen caught 34 passes for 471 yards. For 2016, Allen’s rushing yards should move
upward as he should have more carries.
However, with Windsor’s key additions to their receiving corps, Allen’s
receiving stats should decline.
Fullbacks: Windsor selected Stephen Gray in the fourth round of the draft. Gray graduated from Patriot University (American College Football Association) where he led their run heavy offence in rushing yards and touchdowns over the past three seasons. Gray is an honest power runner who will compliment veteran Running Back Rodney Allen. However, when Windsor lines up in passing situations, Gray will be replaced due to his lack of passing game experience.
Receivers: Last season, All-Pro Jameel Ashrod ranked third in the league for receiving yards (863) and first in catches gaining over twenty-five yards (10). He also led the league in overall return yards with 2,102. Entering his ninth season, league analysts believe Ashrod is truly in the prime of his career.
To further open deep lanes for
Ashrod, Windsor signed long time Quebec Wide Receiver Jermone Bell. Bell’s exodus from Quebec was heartbreaking
for Liberté fans. Fortunately for Windsor,
Bell desired to play for a team more dedicated to the pass. At thirty-three years old, Bell has lost some
speed and agility but is still considered to have the best hands in the
Windsor rounds out their second ranked receiving corps with four year veteran C.J. Dupre, first round pick Calvin Montgomery (Liberty, ACFA) and second round pick Elliott Palmer (Greenfield College, CCFA). Although not starting, C.J. Dupre will replace rookie Fullback Stephen Gray during passing situations and Ashrod and Bell when they need to rest. Montgomery and Palmer will play key roles effectively drawing defenders into the middle of the field and blocking for runners.
Line: Windsor’s line has made
vast improvements since last season.
Tackle Parker Pinchot, Guard Jack Range and Centre Brandon Van Zell are now
considered some of the best of their trade.
Moreover, Pinchot and Laurence Patterson of Halifax are considered to be
the best offensive linemen in the league.
Defensive Line: In line with Saskatoon, Windsor’s defensive line is top notch. Howard Hopkins is considered an elite quick end and Defensive Tackle Cory Greenwood is elite at plugging gaps. Jeremy Mason will play the opposite side of the line from Hopkins. In 2015, Hopkins was constantly double teamed which led to Mason leading Windsor with six (6) sacks. Despite the extra attention, Hopkins still had a decent season sacking quarterbacks five (5) times, forcing two (2) fumbles and recovered three (3) fumbles.
With the loss of Rich Bailey for the season due to injury, Eric Boynton will attempt to fill his large shoes next to Greenwood. Although Boynton lacks Bailey’s run stopping ability, he is a capable lineman. To add quality depth to the line, Windsor signed free agents Will Boyd and DeLonn Parker. Boyd has played nine seasons in the IPFC and made the Cartier Bowl last year with Saskatoon. Parker enters his fifth season and previously started for Quebec.
with other linebacker units, Windsor is middle-of-the-road but has an
encouraging future. Next to Niagara,
they are the second youngest unit with a total of five years of experience. In their short time in the league, Brandon
Konrath and Sebastein Rioux have continued to make improvements against the
pass. Konrath is believed to be a season
or two away from an All-Pro selection.
With their third round pick, Windsor drafted Middle Linebacker Morgan
Hatcher out of Eastern Penn University.
Defensive Backs: Windsor’s secondary needs improvement but should hold up against the pass. As for support against the run, eight year IPFC veteran and Safety Dan Schmidt is the backfield’s only significant source. As expected, Lucas Cunningham improved from last year’s rookie season and will now be matched against opponent’s top receivers. Similar to last year, Douglas Hart will replace the middle linebacker during passing situations.