CFL Pass

Dinos football camp kicking off with many familiar faces

One hundred hopefuls and returning veterans have checked in as the University of Calgary Dinos get set for their 56th season of Canada West football competition.

The Dinos’ fall training camp opens Saturday morning at McMahon Stadium, with 21 practices scheduled over two weeks leading into the season’s opening week. Calgary will kick off the 2019 season on Aug. 30 at Edmonton’s Foote Field against the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

The home opener – KICKOFF XIV – is set for Sept. 6 when the Manitoba Bisons roll into McMahon.

Head coach Wayne Harris returns a large portion of the group that posted an undefeated regular season at 8-0 in 2018, led by reigning Hec Crighton Trophy winner Adam Sinagra at quarterback. Sinagra, who set a national single-season passing record last year, anchors an offence that includes returning CFL draftees WR Hunter Karl and RB Jeshrun Antwi and averaged more than 570 yards per game through the 2018 season.

“We’ve been in the gym and working hard, but it’s been a long off-season,” said Sinagra, who was also named the Canada West male athlete of the year for 2018-19, “and I think guys are excited to get back on the field and get to work.

“There’s a lot of familiarity with all the positions, and we’ve added some pieces. It’s about maintaining our composure and expectations. It’s a long season, and we just need to keep it game-by-game.”

One key new face on the offensive side of the ball is offensive co-ordinator Pat Sheahan, who replaced his son Ryan in the role in the offseason. Sheahan brings decades of U Sports coaching experience to the Dinos following his storied career as head coach at both Queen’s and Concordia.

Defensively there are more changes, with the graduation of LB Boston Rowe, DL Joel Van Pelt, and DB Aaron Statz. Nick Statz, however, returns for a fifth year, after experiencing training camp with the Calgary Stampeders, and Harris is looking forward to seeing competition for some open spots on defence.

“We did bring in some experienced players on defence like Jason Anyimadu, Andrew Ricard, and Hayden Nellis,” said Harris, who begins his fifth season patrolling Calgary’s sidelines. “Those guys will have a more veteran presence and be able to step in and help us with the holes we need to fix.

“On the offence we hope that we’ll be able to pick up where we left off. There are some key guys that we have brought in that we expect to compete to play right away, and we hope that a few of the guys that didn’t start last year will challenge for some of those starting roles. It’s exciting to see them get back on the field, and we’re looking forward to a lot of production out of our offence.”

The Dinos have been the team to beat in Canada West for the last decade, and the talent in place heading into 2019 would seem to indicate they’ll be near the top of the standings again. But the Vanier Cup has still eluded the program since 1995, and a Hardy Cup upset at home against Saskatchewan last November will undoubtedly be a motivator.

“We were a very young team last year, and hopefully it’s a learning experience for a young group of people that were really excelling above what our expectations were,” said Harris. “Hopefully they’ve learned from that, that the playoffs are a whole new game, you need to be big and strong and fast in this conference to get out of it, and it doesn’t get any easier after that.”

“We got in our heads a bit last year, got too ahead of ourselves, and we’re really preaching the day-by-day, week-by-week mentality this year,” said Sinagra. “Ultimately, Canada West is one of the toughest conferences in U Sports, and to be successful you have to win each day.”

Camp opens with back-to-back practices Saturday at 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.

Source: torontosun.com