This week, collegiate players from across Canada participated in three regional combines in Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto. Those who impressed in each of the three events were asked to attend the main CFL Combine which begins Friday in Toronto. TSN's Duane Forde gives his thoughts on this week's regionals, who impressed and who to look out for in Toronto this weekend.
EDMONTON - Twenty-one draft eligible players participated in Monday's Edmonton regional combine with five of them advancing to the national combine in Toronto.
The most impressive among them was Simon Fraser receiver Tore Corrado. Having established himself more as a kick returner than as a receiver at the NCAA Division II-level, Corrado's quickness is his greatest strength. His skill set gives him an opportunity to be an effective player on the bigger Canadian field. Corrado's SFU teammate Dylan Roper turned scouts' heads early in the day when he hoisted 225 lbs. 26 times. The defensive end clinched his trip to Toronto in the one-on-one drills, where his quickness off the edge and non-stop motor were evident.
The Regina Rams also had two players promoted to the main combine in guard Kyle Paterson and defensive end Michael Dadzie. The latter hails from the athletic hotbed of Brampton, Ontario and, although he wasn't a full-time starter for the Rams, he possesses a combination of strength and speed that intrigues scouts. Paterson hopes to continue following in the footsteps of fellow Weyburn, Saskatchewan natives and U of R products Brendon LaBatte and Brett Jones. He topped the bench press test with 27 reps and was clearly the most athletic O-lineman in attendance.
Rounding out the national combine invitees was rock solid Manitoba linebacker Thomas Miles, who tested well and brings an element of physical play to the table.
My honourable mentions from the Edmonton regional go to scrappy Manitoba receiver Andrew Smith, who combines good leaping ability with a willingness to compete in the air for every ball, and Calgary kicker John Mark, who wasn't as accurate as usual, but hit the ball well on every field goal attempt.
MONTREAL - There were twenty-seven draft eligible performers among the participants at Wednesday's Montreal regional combine, five of whom earned their way to the national event.
Nigel Romick of Saint Mary's distinguished himself in a very competitive defensive line group, testing very well across the board and showing great versatility by taking one-on-one reps at tackle, end and even linebacker. Sherbrooke receiver Francis Lapointe, one of the favourites among scouts entering the combine, lived up to his advance billing, running solid pass routes and tying for the fastest 40-yard dash of the day.
Two running backs with very different skill sets will also be moving on to the national stage. Bruising fullback Alexandre Dupuis of the Montreal Carabins came back last fall from injuries to both knees that had wiped out his 2012 campaign and continued to impress with his work ethic and toughness. Meanwhile, Laval's shifty Guillaume Bourassa, who has always had to share time in the crowded Rouge et Or backfield, shone as both a receiver and blocker.
Performing on the Concordia University field that he has called home for the last four years, Stingers linebacker Travis Bent also punched his ticket to Toronto. The native of Ajax, Ontario was one of the most heavily recruited players in this class coming out of high school.
A number of other players also caught my eye in Montreal, led by Mount Allison's Quinn Everett, who shows good potential as an O-lineman after spending the last four years on the defensive side. Defensive linemen Vincent Desloges (Laval), Shaquille Armstrong (Concordia) and Sanmi Adereti (St.FX) all had their moments, as did receivers Nathan Heather and Mike Harrington, while McGill DB Mattey Ossom and Bishop's LB Omar Smith-Jackson displayed outstanding athleticism.
TORONTO - On Thursday, Toronto was home to the third and final regional combine with 25 draft eligible prospects on hand. Four would ultimately earn promotions to this weekend's national combine, led by former St.FX defensive back Raye Hartmann. An AUS All-Star in 2011, Hartmann had sat out the last two seasons, but showed absolutely no signs of rust as the 6'2" Mississauga, Ontario native was dominant in pass coverage and excelled in testing.
Big Queen's receiver Scott MacDonell was equally impressive, using his 6'5", 225 lbs. frame to his advantage in one-on-ones. He runs well for his size and could certainly contribute at the next leavel with most teams, at least occasionally, employing a tight end package.
The day got off to a bit of a rough start for Toronto running back Aaron Milton, when he raised some eyebrows by declining to do the bench press test, later citing a shoulder injury. The big back more than made up for it on the field, showing both explosiveness as a ball carrier and receiver, as well as a willingness to get his nose dirty in blocking drills.
High-energy defensive end James Tuck of the York Lions snagged the other invitation, combining an impressive level of athleticism with an even more impressive effort level. Winnipeg-born, Texas-raised offensive lineman Tchissakid Player of Northwestern State was a virtual lock to claim a spot at the main combine until a pulled hamstring ruled him out. Strong-legged kicker Zack Medeiros (Western), waterbug receiver Quincy Van De Cruize (Bishop's), and hard-working Guelph defensive tackle Jeffery Finley were among several who didn't advance but likely still helped their stock on Friday.