No name is ever really written in ink on a football team’s depth chart.
Oh, sure… there are certain guarantees and locks. It’s given that Andrew Harris is the incumbent Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back, for example, as is the man handing the ball off to him in quarterback Matt Nichols.
But no good football operations department ever really stops looking for talent, whether it comes in the form of cast-offs from the National Football League, Canadian college prospects, unearthed talent that arrives at a free agent camp, or big behemoths who stomp into a watering hole just looking the part.
All of which brings us to our first Ultimate (Bombers) Guide to Bowl Games, an idea yours truly originally trotted out during my newspaper days.
Football junkies are already well aware the NCAA national championship goes January 8th at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and will feature the winner of the Georgia-Oklahoma Rose Bowl showdown and whoever emerges from the Sugar Bowl’s Alabama vs. Clemson battle.
But the Bombers football operations staff will also be closely watching the Gasparilla Bowl on December 21st, the Birmingham Bowl on December 23rd, and the Texas Bowl on December 27th.
They’ll also have their eyes peeled on this Saturday’s FCS (Football College Subdivision) semifinals.
And here’s why: each of those games features a quarterback currently on the Bombers’ negotiation list, meaning the club holds their Canadian Football League rights should they ever venture north. That might be a big ‘if’ in some cases, but it does give some reasons to hunker down and watch them in action during bowl season.
The FCS semi-final, for example, features Bryan Schor of the James Madison Dukes; the Gasparilla Bowl will showcase Alex McGough of the Florida International in action against the Temple Owls; South Florida’s Quinton Flowers will be lining up against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Birmingham Bowl, while Drew Lock will lead the Missouri Tigers into action against the Texas Longhorns in the Texas Bowl.
Another QB on the Bombers neg list – Chris Streveler of the University of South Dakota Coyotes – is one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award, presented annually to the top offensive player in Division 1 football.
Here’s a snapshot of the five Bomber QB prospects, four of whom are still playing in bowl games or FCS playoffs (in order of bowl game appearance):
JAMES MADISON DUKES
UPDATED: Schor was 18 -f 25 for 203 yards and two TDs in the Dukes 51-16 win over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the FCS semi-final. But he struggled in the FCS Championship as the Dukes had their long winning streak ended in a loss to the Bison, completing just 14 of 32 passes for 148 yards and two interceptions.
Hometown: Milford, Pa.
His 2017 numbers: Completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 2,871 yards and 24 TDs against 12 interceptions. Rushed for 510 yards and six TDs.
FYI: Second-Team All-Colonial Athletic Association All Star in 2017 for the No. 1-seeded Dukes, who have won 25 straight… Finalist for the Walter Payton Award… A FCS Second Team All-American in 2016 and the CAA Offensive Player of the Year… Holds four JMU career records for passing touchdowns, completions, passing yards and total offence.
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL PANTHERS
UPDATED: McGough injured his shoulder on the Panthers first possession of the Gasparilla Bowl vs. Temple and did not return to the game as the Owls won 28-3.
Hometown: Tampa, Fla.
His 2017 numbers: Completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 2,791 yards with 17 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Rushed for an additional 411 yards and five scores.
FYI: Broke school records in 2017 for completion percentage, passing yards and passer efficiency… Named to the Conference-USA Honorable Mention All-Star Team in 2017… Named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team in 2014… McGough’s younger brother Shane is a redshirt centre on the Panthers.
SOUTH FLORIDA BULLS
UPDATED: Led the Bulls to a dramatic Birmingham Bowl win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders on December 23 as USF scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, including 14 in the final five minutes and the winning score with 16 seconds remaining, in a 38-34 win.
Flowers finished his final college game with 311 yards through the air and 106 yards on the ground while orchestrating five touchdowns.
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
His 2017 numbers: Completed 53.4 percent of his passes for 2,600 yards with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions. Led the Bulls in rushing with 1,133 yards and 10 TDs.
FYI: Was named to the American Athletic Conference Second All-Star Team in 2017… A finalist for the Maxwell Award (best all-round player in the country), the Davey O’Brien Award (top QB in all NCAA), the Manning Award (top QB, as voted on by Sugar Bowl Committee) and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (top fourth-year QB)… His 2016 honours (take a deep breath) include College Football Performance Awards Performer of the Year, American Conference Offensive Player of the Year, First Team All-Conference, Birmingham Bowl MVP, Walter Camp Player of the Year Award Semifinalist, Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award Finalist… Was the USF Team MVP in 2015 and 2016 and is USF’s all-time rushing touchdown leader.
UPDATED: The Tigers fell 33-16 to Texas in the Texas Bowl, but the big news for Missouri fans came afterward when Lock announced he would return for his senior season with the Tigers. Lock was 18 of 34 for 269 yards with one TD and one interception vs. the Longhorns.
Hometown: Lee’s Summit, MO
His 2017 numbers: Completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 3,695 yards for 43 TDs and 12 interceptions. Rushed for 179 yards and one TD.
FYI: Led the Tigers to a 7-5 record in 2017 and their first bowl game since 2014… His 43 passing touchdowns this season set a new Southeastern Conference record… Tied an SEC record with seven passing TDs in season-opening win over Missouri State… Named to the 2017 All-SEC Team.
*Not playing in a bowl game
Team: University of South Dakota Coyotes
Hometown: Crystal Lake, Illinois
His numbers: Completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 4,134 yards and 32 TDs against eight interceptions. Rushed for an additional 870 yards and 11 TDs. Threw for a school and FCS playoff record 520 yards with five TDs and two interceptions in the Coyotes loss to Sam Houston State on December 2nd.
FYI: Selected as the quarterback on The 2017 Associated Press FCS All-American Team… One of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award… Was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year… Selected by his teammates as one of five team captains in 2017… Was named the MVFC Newcomer of the Year in 2016… Began his college career at the University of Minnesota, playing both quarterback and receiver.