2017 U SPORTS Football Team Preview: Queen’s Gaels

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With a year under their belts in the revitalized Richardson Stadium, 2017 may be all about redemption. The Gaels could taste the playoffs, but a spot was taken from them on the final play of 2016 when Ottawa completed a fluky two-point conversion for a one-point win.

Fast forward to 2017 and the group that sees the majority of their starters returning from last year will use the finale of 2016 as motivation heading into this season.

The main strength of the team is once again expected to be the defensive unit. Defensive Coordinator Greg Marshall has grown this group since his first year at Queen’s into a methodical machine. Having been together in Marshall’s system since their first-year, where many players received significant playing time, their familiarity with each other will mean big trouble for opposing offences in the league. Queen’s will look to improve on last season where they ranked third in the OUA in sacks, yards allowed per game, defensive touchdowns and were fourth in interceptions.

Offensively, the tricolour lineup only has to deal with minimal losses as well, as their core offensive pieces are back for another go around. Quarterback Nate Hobbs will be under centre for his fourth season as a Gael along with veteran Jonah Pataki in the backfield once again. The Gaels offensive line sees the return of Daniel Hayes who had a brief stint with the CFL’s Ottawa REDBLACKS before rejoining the Gaels. Keep an eye on third-year receiver Chris Osei-Kusi as he looks to build on a strong 2016 campaign.

“We definitely want to be in the playoffs and we want to be in the hunt. We’re in a tough conference and have a tough season ahead of us but we think with a little bit of growth and commitment, we should be there. If we can stay away from injuries it should be a pretty good defensive unit. We’ve played some great games and are showing signs of maturation. After a bad play if we can gather ourselves and get back to stopping the opponent then this should be a good year for the defence.” – Pat Sheahan

Head Coach: Pat Sheahan
– Number of seasons as head coach with team (including 2017): 18
– Number of seasons as head coach in U SPORTS (including 2017): 29
– Career regular season record with team: 83-53
– Career regular season record in U SPORTS: 131-86-1
– Career overall record with team (reg. season & playoffs only): 95-64
– Career overall record in U SPORTS (reg. season & playoffs only): 149-105-1

OFFENCE
Number of returning starters: 9

Key returning players:
QB Nate Hobbs returns for his fourth season as a senior signal caller for the tricolour. Hobbs will be leaned upon as a veteran to keep the offensive motor running and use the field advantage that the defence sets him up with to his advantage. He manned the QB position for Team East at the East West Bowl this spring going 10-17 with 89 yards passing and rushing four times for 22 yards.

OL Daniel Hayes returns looking to build upon his football resume and impress CFL scouts. Hayes was signed to the practice roster of the Ottawa REDBLACKS before being released before the season. Another strong year at Queen’s could land him a spot as a free agent signing with a CFL team.

RB Jonah Pataki had a big year in 2016 with the Gaels finishing fourth in the OUA in rushing yards (814) and touchdowns (7). Expect him to continue to be a strength offensively and push for 1,000 yards in 2017.

REC Chris Osei-Kusi emerged as a can’t miss target in 2016 for quarterback Nate Hobbs. His speed and versatility made him a weapon in the return game as well. There were four times he hit over 100 yards in a game offensively.

Key recruits or transfers: Sakhia Kwemo (REC), Konner Burtenshaw (RB), Nolan Bedard (RB)

Key losses: Peter Hannon (REC), John Meenagh (OL), Stewart Anoya (OL)

DEFENCE
Number of returning starters: 11

Key returning players:
LB Nelkas Kwemo returns for his fourth season as a Gael and is expected to be a leader on the Queen’s defence again. Kwemo lit up the stats sheet in 206 averaging 5.6 tackles per game and finishing with 3.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for a loss along with a forced fumble and fumble recovery. He also led the defence at the East West Bowl with nine tackles.

DL Zac Sauer enters his final year as a Gael looking to make an impact once again defensively. He led the Gaels in sacks (4.5) and tackles for a loss (7) in 2016.

DB Jason Shamatutu was named to the East West Bowl this spring despite not being able to participate. His CFL draft status is on the rise as the 6’3, 195lbs shutdown defensive back enters his senior year.

DB Wesley Mann was an OUA All-Star in 2016 tying for the conference lead in interceptions with five. Mann is fresh off an East West Bowl appearance as well where he picked up a pair of tackles.

Key recruits or transfers: David Morton (DL), Liam Puskas (DB), Noah Lalama (DL)

Key losses: Tanner Gennaro (DL), Luke McQuilkin (LB)

SPECIAL TEAMS
Key returning players:
K/P Nick Liberatore returns for his second year as a Gael and is looking to pick up where he left off in 2016 before suffering a leg injury. Despite having his rookie campaign cut short, Liberatore is expected to carry the kicking load for Queen’s once again.

Key recruits or transfers: Kieran Flannery-Fleck (K/.P)

Key losses: None

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