April 28, 2017

U of M Bisons Preview | Veterans

The first installment of the University of Manitoba Bisons Football Spring Camp series looked at some key recruits who will be hoping to make an impact when on-field sessions begin on Friday night.

In Part two, shifts the focus to the veterans.

Over 50 members of last season’s squad are returning this year and will be participating at spring camp. Below are a few athletes at each position to watch through the weekend:

Quarterbacks: Des Catellier and Julian Wytinck

Theo Deezar has manned the controls of the Bisons offence over the past few seasons, and that’s not likely to change in 2017. That means the most intriguing battle at spring camp will be between Catellier and Wytinck. Colby Kyliuk, another returnee from last year’s squad, will be making the transition to receiver, meaning that Catellier and Wytinck will have an enhanced chance to go throw-for-throw.

Bisons football head coach Brian Dobie has spoken highly of both pivots in the past, and each will get their chance to prove why they should be number two on the depth chart. Last year, it was Catellier who held that position, however going into a new season, nothing is guaranteed.

Running backs: Jamel Lyles, Alex Christie and Somto Anyadike

Despite playing last season in the British Columbia Football Conference (BCFC), it’s impossible not to mention Lyles on the list of veterans after he was named the Canada West Rookie of the Year in 2015 while with the Bisons.

Lyles’ presence may single-handedly alter what Manitoba does on offence considering the impact he had in 2015. New offensive coordinator Blair Atkinson – who replaces Vaughn Mitchell – may look to feature the versatile athlete in numerous formations. The way Lyles is utilized is something to pay attention to during the three days of spring camp.

Christie and Anyadike are also likely to benefit from Lyles’ return. In 2015, the Bisons utilized a three-back formation with Lyles, Christie and former tailback Cam Fox, which terrorized defences due to the three different running styles the athletes possessed. Insert Anyadike into the power back role that Fox once held, and Manitoba’s run game could see a major boost.


Jamel Lyles (28). PHOTO: Jeff Miller

Receivers: Derek Yachison, Jesse Walker and Stephen Ugbah

The receiver position was a revolving door for Manitoba in 2016 due to unfortunate injuries to numerous starters. Just two players (Trysten Dyce and Riley Harrison) played in all eight regular season contests. One positive for 2017 is that most of Manitoba’s walking wounded are back and fully healthy.

Yachison, Walker and Ugbah were expected to be three of the go-to targets for the herd last year. Unfortunately, Yachison suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1, while Walker and Ugbah fought through nagging injuries for most of the year.

All three are back and have something to prove in 2017. Yachison’s football IQ is quite impressive and he can line up at either slotback or wideout. Ugbah provides a deep, athletic threat, while Walker’s speed and versatility are reminiscent of Nic Demski in some aspects. Look for all three to show up big-time at camp.

Offensive line: Zack Williams and Reid McMorris

The offensive line struggled with injuries at times last year as well. But as the Bisons have proven time and time again, their depth up front is almost second to none. This season appears to be no different, with nine hoggies back for the upcoming campaign – most of whom have seen starting action at some point during their tenure with Manitoba.

Williams and McMorris are highlighted on this list due to their versatility. Both can play either guard or tackle and have proven their resiliency over the past two years.

Defensive line: Quinton Bowles and Brock Gowanlock

Two players who got a taste of university football last season are the focus of attention for this list.

Bowles, a former standout with Vancouver Island of the BCFC, is likely to step into all-star Evan Foster’s defensive end position opposite Derek Dufault. He played in seven games last year, registering two sacks, and should be in for a breakout season with a year under his belt.

Gowanlock, who holds the BCFC record for sacks in a single season, was hailed as the heir apparent to current New Orleans Saint David Onyemata last season. He played in just six games in his debut campaign though, and never got to the level expected of him. Look for a significant bounce-back performance in 2017.

Linebackers: Donovan Gregoire and James Mau

With the graduation of DJ Lalama and Bami Adewale, both the middle and weak-side linebacker positions are available for the taking. While there are a number of suitable candidates, Gregoire and Mau are two athletes to pay specific attention to during camp.

Gregoire has been stellar on special teams in the past, while Mau has prior experience starting at linebacker for Manitoba. Caleb Abraham and Adam Neiles are also returning and will be right in the fight for a starting spot.

Defensive backs: Marcel Arruda-Welch and Eric Plett

Manitoba also struggled with injuries in the defensive backfield in last year, and are likely thankful to have 2016 starters Plett and Arruda-Welch back and healthy for spring camp after losing the former for the first half of the season and the latter for the entire season.

Both will be fighting to retain their spots in what is going to be a highly-competitive secondary that also features likely captain Jayden McKoy, as well as junior football standout Luc Catellier (won’t be participating at spring camp), Akeeno Williams, Keenan Onyebuchi and Tyler Fong – who is also coming back from a devastating injury in 2016.





Thursday, April 27:

6-9 p.m. Team and Positional Meetings at IGF

Friday, April 28:

6-8 p.m. Practice #1 – University of Manitoba Turf Fields

Saturday, April 29:

11 a.m.-1 p.m.  Practice #2 – University of Manitoba Turf Fields

2-4 p.m. Practice #3 – University of Manitoba Turf Fields

Sunday, April 30:

10 a.m.-12 p.m.  Practice #4 – University of Manitoba Turf Fields

4-6 p.m. Scrimmage – University of Manitoba Turf Fields


2017 Spring Camp Practices will be held at University of Manitoba Turf Fields – East Side (at University of Manitoba Fort Garry campus).