Varsity Blues look to return to playoffs as 2016 season opens Sunday

Varsity Blues look to return to playoffs as 2016 season opens Sunday

2015 regular season record: 3-5

2015 regular season standings: 8th in OUA

2015 playoff record: n/a

2015 playoff finish: n/a

 

The Varsity Blues remained in the OUA playoff hunt until the final week of the 2015 season, however, with a game 8 loss to Ottawa, they finished with a 3-5 record and on the outside looking in. 

Toronto utilized an impressive ground game in 2015, highlighted by Divante Smith and Alex Malone. The pair garnered two 100+ yard games apiece last season and both placed in the OUA top 10 in yards per game. They welcome fourth-year Florida Tech transfer Kaleb Leach, who will look to add much needed depth to the tailback position.    

The Blues return almost their entire starting offensive line this season. Fourth-year tackle Danny Sprukulis and fourth-year guard Chris Kelly will anchor this veteran group, while they welcome Tusculum College transfer Nick Wasylyk to the front five. 

Fifth-year quarterback Marcus Hobbs takes the reins for the Blues aerial attack in 2016. The dual-threat quarterback has primarily been used for his legs over the past three seasons, scoring 11 touchdowns on the ground, and will no doubt be used accordingly within Toronto's vaunted rushing attack. 

Defensively, the Blues will look to take advantage a strong chemistry with all five of the team's leading tacklers returning from last season. Three of the team's top five includes a superior linebacker group in OUA all-rookie Matthew Renaud, fifth-year NCAA transfer Adrian Bernard, and third-year playmaker Paul Kozachuk. Together the threesome garnered 110 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one interception.

2015 team tackle leader Jaiden McBride will anchor the secondary in his final year of eligibility while fourth-year hybrid linebacker-rush end Corey Williams and veteran Ryan Searle will be leaned on to lead the big men up front.

Quote from head coach: Greg Gary  

"Our goal is to play good football and change the atmosphere surrounding the University of Toronto in the league. We are building something sustainable here and it's time that we show it on the field and in the win column. I'm confident we have a good group of guys, both recruits and veterans, this year that can get the job done."

Head Coach: Greg Gary 

- Number of seasons as head coach with team (including 2016): 6th

- Number of seasons as head coach in CIS (including 2016): 6th

- Career regular season record with team: 14-26

- Career regular season record in CIS: 15-28-1

- Career overall record with team (reg. season & playoffs only): 14-26

- Career overall record in CIS (reg. season & playoffs only): 14-26

OFFENCE 


Number of returning starters:

Key returning players: 

QB Marcus Hobbs steps into a starting role in his fifth and final season at U of T. Started his career as a punter, leading the OUA in punt yardage (2918) in 2012. Brother, Nathan, is starting QB at Queen's. 

RB Divante Smith is back for his third season. Ranked second on the team, rushing 73 times for 400 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2015. Recorded a career-high 19 rushes for a career-high 127 yards vs Queen's on Sept. 2. 

R Anthony Naccarato is a fourth-year architecture major. Started seven games, ranking third on the Blues with 24 receptions for 325 yards and one TD. He also rushed 15 times for 44 yards and made six kick returns for 142 yards and five punt returns for 30 yards. 

OL Danny Sprukulis enters his fourth season. Has dressed and started all games for the past three years, earning OUA all-rookie team honours in 2013. Played in the 2016 East West Bowl.

Key recruits or transfers: 

RB Kaleb Leach is a fourth-year transfer from the Florida Tech Panthers. Led Florida Tech in rushing touchdowns in 2013. Earned all-state, all-region and all-district MVP honours as a member of the Frankfort High School Panthers in 2012. 

OL Nick Wasylyk is a 6-foot-3, 295-pound transfer from Tusculum College in Tennessee. He is a fourth-year offensive lineman originally from Mississauga, Ont.  

FB Connor Lindeman joins U of T from Episcopal H.S. in Virginia. Made the Canadian Football Chat's Top 100 list, reaching a final rank of 18 across all positions. He received an honourable mention for the Virginia football all-State team.

Key losses:  

QB Simon Nassar

R Boris Isakov

OL DJ Sackey

DEFENCE

Number of returning starters:

Key returning players:

LB Adrian Bernard enters his final year at U of T. The 6-foot-1, 215 pound linebacker from Newark, N.J., ranked second on the Blues with 39 total tackles in 2015. Transferred from Susquehanna University in 2015.  

LB Matthew Renaud was named a member of the 2015 OUA all-rookie team. He ranked third on the team with 38 tackles, while also recording 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one break up and one block last year. 

DB Jaiden McBride is a fifth-year senior from Toronto. He led the team and ranked fifth in the OUA with 48 total tackles in 2015. He also ranked third in the OUA and fourth in the CIS with 43 solo tackles. 

DB Richard Gillespie enters his second year of eligibility. He recorded 28.5 tackles, two interceptions, one break up and one fumble recovery. Played in the 2016 East West Bowl.  

DE Corey Williams is a 6-foot-1, 235-pound native of Mississauga. Williams recorded 15.5 tackles and co-led the team with three sacks last season.

Key recruits or transfers: 

DB Jamal Johnson is a 6-foot-0, 186-pound product of Loomis Chaffee School Pelicans in Windsor, Connecticut...prior to that, he started two years at St. Francis High School in Buffalo. 

DL Mekhi Henry is a 6-foot-2, 277-pound lineman from Brampton, Ont. He was named the MVP of the Philip Pocock C.S.S. football team three times, while also suiting up for the Mississauga Warriors of the OVFL. 

DB Joel Fountain is a first-year defensive back, originally from Nassau, Bahamas. Fountain joins the Blues from a strong program at Father Henry Carr C.H.S.

Key losses: 

DB Trevor Harvey

LB Owynn Lahnalampi

SPECIAL TEAMS

Key returning players: 

P TJ Morton was named an OUA first team all-star after leading the OUA with a 40.2 punting average in 2015...Played two seasons with the NCAA Division III Susquehanna University Crusaders. 

R Rowan Comish led the team with 38 punt returns for 369 yards in 2015. He also made four kick returns for 75 yards. 

K Ethan Shafer steps into a starting kicker role. Shafer hails from Orlando, Florida and was a member of the National Honours Society at Dr. Phillips H.S.

Key recruits or transfers: 

RB Kaleb Leach is a fourth-year transfer from the Florida Tech Panthers. Led Florida Tech in rushing touchdowns in 2013. Earned all-state, all-region and all-district MVP honours as a member of the Frankfort High School Panthers in 2012. 

OL Nick Wasylyk is a 6-foot-3, 295-pound transfer from Tusculum College in Tennessee. He is a fourth-year offensive lineman originally from Mississauga, Ont.  

FB Connor Lindeman joins U of T from Episcopal H.S. in Virginia. Made the Canadian Football Chat's Top 100 list, reaching a final rank of 18 across all positions. He received an honourable mention for the Virginia football all-State team.

ey losses:

PR/KR Trevor Harvey

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