Following another year that ended in playoff disappointment, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team took the first steps to righting the ship in 2015.
On April 30, the Huskies held their annual Dog’s Breakfast to announce the 25 new recruits that will join the team — 15 of which are Saskatchewan-born products that will aim to help the Huskies win their first conference title since 2007.
Head coach Brian Towriss was at the banquet to introduce and welcome the rookies and noted that he was very excited about this recruiting class.
Some of the key recruits joining the squad are former Saskatoon Hilltops Justin Filteau (All-Canadian linebacker), Wayndel Lewis (All-Canadian running back) and Ben Hodson (All-Canadian offensive lineman).
Top high school talents Ben Whiting (defensive back), Payton Hall (defensive back) and Eric Thakurdeen (linebacker) will join the Huskies as well. All three players suited up for the U-18 Team Canada and helped defeat Team U.S.A. 25–9 at the 2015 International Bowl in Arlington, Texas.
Saskatoon high school standouts Jacob Solie (defensive back), Adam Lewis (running back) and Greg Lamb (receiver) all played for Team Saskatchewan in 2014 and will suit up for the Dogs in 2015 and beyond.
Following the banquet, the team hit the gridiron later that evening for their first official practice of the new year. The spring camp wrapped up on May 3 with the annual Green & White Scrimmage.
“Spring camp gives us an opportunity to introduce our systems and evaluate and compare the incoming players with the veterans on our roster,” Towriss told Huskies Athletics.
In the scrimmage, both sides of the ball turned in a great effort and capped off what was a very successful weekend of football.
The offence moved the ball effectively through the air and on the ground for the majority of the mini-game, but struggled in the ball security department, with a disappointing four fumbles throughout the afternoon.
With Mitch Hillis leading the way, the offence scored four touchdowns in the game — two from running back Jarvis James and the other two courtesy of Hillis, who will enter his third season of Canadian Interuniversity Sport eligibility and will be counted on heavily to produce in the Huskies aerial attack.
Up front, the offensive line will be expected to improve this season after injuries plagued them in 2014. Quarterback Drew Burko will need better protection in the pocket and more consistent holes will need to be opened up for the running game to be successful. The running back position will be an intense battle to see who gets the nod as starter, with incumbents Shane Buchanan, Jarvis James and Andre LaLonde up against youngsters Tyler Chow and Wayndel Lewis.
The running game has been inconsistent over the past couple of years and will be a necessity if the Huskies want to compete with the University of Calgary Dinos and the University of Manitoba Bisons for the top spot in the Canada West conference.
Defensively speaking, the secondary played very well with many impressive and athletic pass knockdowns. The front seven were also stellar, providing pressure early and often to help slow down the offensive attack and forcing four turnovers which impressed defensive coordinator Ed Carleton. It was great to see following last season when the Huskies defence led the CanWest in takeaways.
The team will now be off until August when fall camp starts up, just prior to the beginning of the 2015 season. With one of the strongest recruiting classes in recent memory and some positive signs at spring camp, it looks as though 2015 will be another good year for Huskies football.
Image: Jeremy Britz/Graphics Editor