By Nick Wells
Let the recruiting wars begin. It’s still two years until the Panda Game will come back to life, but the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees already realize they’ll face even more competition for local players as Carleton University’s football program starts to kick into gear.
Thomas Timlin, Carleton’s new head of football operations, believes Carleton will be able to better the Gee-Gees’ local recruitment efforts.
“Right now I don’t think the Gee-Gees recruit well in Ottawa because they haven’t had a need to concentrate on Ottawa,” Timlin says. “But with a team in their backyard, they’ll have to start competing for players.”
Local players play a big part in the Gee-Gees’ success, with many Ottawa natives occupying key starting positions in their lineup. If the Ravens manage to steal just one or two of those players a year, it could be a big blow to the perennial provincial championship contenders.
Landing very best is tough
“Recruiting is a big part of university football, and I agree with Carleton,” acknowledges Gee-Gees football head coach J.P. Asselin. “We can do a better job of recruiting local players.”
Midway through the season and ranked 10th in the country, it seems hard to believe that a coach is worried about a team that is two years away from even throwing a football, but it highlights the fact that recruiting top local talent has become harder for the garnet and grey.
While the Gee-Gees have a total of 35 players from the capital region, the only recognized star they have convinced to stay in Ottawa is Canadian Interuniversity Sport leading rusher Brendan Gillanders, who was courted by schools from across the country in hopes of building a team around him.
On top of other schools going after local players, the Gee-Gees face increased competition from Quebec schools that offer successful programs for players to join. While not considered traditional powerhouses, they have built up their reputation in the past 10 years as top football schools and now draw players that would have traditionally gone to Ottawa U.
“The game has changed in Quebec and in the last three and four years we’ve been forced to recruit more local players and more from Ontario in general,” Asselin notes.
Meanwhile, at Carleton, their football program faces a similar set of challenges. Timlin, the only football player in Carleton’s history to have their number retired by the school, knows he faces a very tough task to try to convince an entire 45-man squad to join a fledgling program.
HARD WORK AHEAD FOR THE RAVENS
The caregiver for a new team that doesn’t yet have a head coach has to square off against the three-time Vanier Cup champions when recruiting players.
Simply put, Timlin explains, why would local players choose to go to a program that will possibly struggle for the first wave of recruits’ entire four years at the university?
The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group-backed Ravens, like other Ontario University Athletics teams, have to manage a limited scholarship budget when recruiting players. Carleton has $92,000 to divide up amongst its team members.
The Ravens’ best hope for success, Timlin believes, lies in focusing on local talent that has been ignored by Ottawa.
And to that end, despite only having been hired two weeks ago, Timlin’s already talked to local football associations about players that might be interested in joining the Ravens in two years. Game on.
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