With over 20 players from 2014-15 not returning this season, the 2015-16 edition of the University of Manitoba Bison football squad will look a bit different.
With a decent amount of turnover at certain spots, the Manitoban decided to layout a projected depth chart, as well as analyze key positional battles.
Dustin Pedersen is basically automatic for this year. He has experience in the starting rotation from previous seasons, and understands the plan that offensive co-ordinator Vaughn Martin runs.
With Matt Sawyer now graduated, it’s up to his former Vancouver Island teammate, Pedersen, to provide the range that the Bisons will need.
Akeeno Williams and Zach Regert should also see themselves at the top of the depth-chart this year. Williams, who was a big contributor two years ago, will also be valuable in the deep game thanks to his burst and breakaway speed.
Regert stepped in as a starter midway through last season’s campaign and didn’t look back. His massive six-foot-six frame is tough to cover, and he already has rapport with projected starting quarterback Theo Deezar from their time in Okanagan.
The main competition at wideout will come from Malcolm Williams, and Lerenzo Ihanza. Williams was recruited from BCFC powerhouse Langley, and has been wreaking havoc with the squad for the past three seasons. He will be Akeeno’s biggest competition, due to their similar size and athleticism.
Ihanza was one of the biggest receiving prospects in Canada this year, and is a well-rounded route runner. At six-foot-two, he’s another physical threat. If he doesn’t redshirt in 2015-16, he has an outside shot at cracking the starting lineup.
The SAM linebacker spot will see two converted defensive backs battling it out, as Brett MacFarlane and Houston Rennie will vie for a position in the front seven.
MacFarlane has experience in the starting rotation already, as a halfback. He was arguably the most physical defensive back on the squad, and as a fifth-year player, his leadership and understanding of the CIS game is invaluable. For this reason, he should begin camp as the starter.
MacFarlane’s physicality could be what ultimately wins him the spot, as he’s built a bit bigger than Rennie, and may be able to handle his responsibilities in the run game more effectively.
Rennie, however, brings a higher level of athleticism, which is also critical. Of the two, he would likely be better in coverage, which is another key component for the SAM position.
This will be the most hotly contested battle in camp, and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.