2016 CIS team preview: Concordia Stingers

2015 regular season record: 4-4

2015 regular season standings: 4th

2015 playoff record: 0-1

2015 playoff finish: lost in semifinals


In 2015 Concordia Stinger head coach Mickey Donovan was optimistic but sufficiently vague when speaking about his hopes for the season. This year he’s quite clear about what lays ahead for his team.

“We expect to be playing in late November,” he said. “We’re taking it one opponent, one week at a time, but our expectations are high.”

Quarterback Trenton Miller echos the coach’s sentiments, “We have one goal – the Vanier Cup. Our goal is to go 1-0 each week.”

On offence, the Stingers will return 11 starters from the 2015 team including Miller, the RSEQ MVP and Hec Crighton nominee. For those questioning whether Miller can build on that success, Donovan is very clear.

“There’s no doubt in my mind,” he said. “I’ve never seen a competitor like him. He reminds me of us – my brother Pat and I – when we played linebacker. He wants it. Trenton Miller is the best quarterback in the country, especially with the receivers we have.”

Yan Lessard, the CIS second team all-Canadian and RSEQ Rookie of the Year, is back for his second season. Two fifth-year veterans will also make Miller’s job easier – all-star Daniel Skube and Jahlani Gilbert-Knorren.

There’s a lot of talk about the size and depth on the offensive line, some things that have been challenges for the Stingers in the recent past.

“I really think our offensive line is going to make a name for itself this year,” Miller said. “Across the board, the guys are stronger and more technically sound. This is going to translate to a more efficient passing game and a better run game this year.”

There’s a lot of talent at running back as well, starting with Jean-Guy Rimpel who returns for his second season. He scored eight touchdowns in his rookie campaign, including three on receptions.

Defensively, the Stingers’ have six starters back, but Donovan is not worried.

“We’re big and experienced up front,” he said. “And overall our defence is athletic and fast.”

CIS first team all-Canadian Sam Narkaj will be back at defensive tackle and he’ll have some pretty impressive company with Michael Sanelli, a dominating second-year man, lining up next to him.

Most of the turnover comes at defensive back and linebacker. There will be a lot of new faces, but Donovan likes the athleticism, physical play and competitive attitude from young players.

He’s excited about some of the new players, particularly linebacker Sam Brodrigue (Champlain, Lennoxville) and defensive back Jersey Henry (Vanier College) who will see a good amount of playing time as rookies.

This is Donovan’s third season at the helm of the Stingers and it is certainly the most talented team he has assembled.

“The depth on this team is night and day from the previous ones,” Donovan said. “This is the most competitive camp we’ve had since we took over. We’re deep at every position. Talented players that dressed last year will not dress this year.”

Head Coach Mickey Donovan

– Number of seasons as head coach with team (including 2016): 3

– Career regular season record with team: 9-7

– Career overall record with team (reg. season & playoffs only): 9-9


Key veterans:

QB Trenton Miller – 4th year of eligibility, 2nd year in CIS. (6’1”, 213 lbs.) A native of Buffalo, N.Y. who joined the Stingers in 2015, Miller participated in all eight regular season games and started in the final six games. He completed 204 of 309 passes (66.0%) for 2384 yards and 20 touchdowns. He threw just eight interceptions. Miller led the conference in four statistical categories – passing attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns. Miller was presented the Jeff Russel Memorial Trophy as the outstanding player in the RSEQ football conference last November. He was also named Concordia’s Male Athlete of the Year.

Receivers – Yanic Lessard, Daniel Skube, Jahlani Gilbert-Knorren – There are high expectations for all receivers this year, but these three in particular are expected to standout. Lessard (6’1”, 190 lbs.) was the RSEQ Rookie of the Year and a CIS second team all-Canadian last year. He caught 50 passes for 728 yards and eight touchdowns. The Ste. Julie, Que. native led the RSEQ in several receiving categories including touchdowns scored, total receiving yards and average yards per game. Skube (6’1”, 217 lbs.), a fifth-year veteran from Mississauga, Ont., was an RSEQ all-star in 2015. He led the conference with 60 catches. That also set a school record for most receptions in a season, passing the previous mark of 52 set in 2009 by Cory Watson. Those catches totaled 692 yards and he had four touchdowns. Gilbert-Knorren (6’1”, 200 lbs.), who calls Edmonton home, is going into his second year with the Stingers and using his final year of CIS eligibility. A superb athlete, he started the first two games at quarterback in 2015 and then moved to receiver. He caught 29 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns.

RB Jean-Guy Rimpel – 2nd year, (6’1”, 210 lbs.) – The Montreal native made a big impact in his rookie campaign. He was the fourth-leading rusher in the RSEQ with 432 yards (5.5 average) and five touchdowns in seven games. He also caught 21 passes for 174 yards and three touchdowns. Donovan expects big things out of Rimpel in 2016.

Key recruits: 

RB Tanner Green, Lacombe, Alta. (6’3”, 235 lbs.) He comes to Concordia from the Central Alberta Buccaneers of the Alberta Football League. At the senior level, he was an AFL second team all-star in 2015. Donovan has been impressed with him in camp saying, “He’s a great athlete. He’s got good size. He’s very physical and he’s a hard worker.”

OT Matt Halbgewachs, Regina (6’5”, 295 lbs.). As a member of the Regina Thunder in 2015, Halbgewachs was a Prairie Football Conference all-star and its outstanding lineman. He was also a Canadian Junior Football League all-Canadian. Halbgewachs, 22, was on the Saskatchewan Roughriders practice roster in 2015. He spent his days with the CFL team and then joined the Thunder in the evenings. He was the No. 1 player the Stingers wanted when they were recruiting last winter.

SB Vince Alessandrini (6’1”, 193 lbs.) A Laval, Que. native who played three seasons at Vanier College, Alessandrini has turned a lot of heads at training camp and earned praise from Donovan. The head coach is impressed with his toughness, work ethic and drive. With Vanier in 2015, Alessandrini had 25 receptions for 408 yards and three touchdowns. He was an RSEQ all-star at Laval Liberty High School in 2012 and won a gold medal at the Canada Cup as a member of Team Québec in 2013.

Key loss:

OT/OG Roman Grozman – Tel-Aviv, Israel – Grozman will definitely be missed. He’s been the anchor on the offensive line for the last four years. He was selected in the fourth round by the Calgary Stampeders and is currently on the CFL club’s practice roster.


Key returning players:

DT Sam Narkaj – 4th year, (6’0”, 296 lbs.) – The Toronto resident arrived in August of 2013 and was relatively unknown to the coaching staff. He earned a spot on the dress roster and had a solid rookie campaign. Since then he has made people take notice with his strength and intensity. Narkaj did 36 reps on the bench press during training camp testing. In 2015, he had 23.5 tackles, including three sacks. He also had one interception. He was a CIS first team all-Canadian last year. His draft year is 2017.

DT Mike Sanelli – 2nd year, (6’2”, 315 lbs.) – Sanelli is a force to be reckoned with. As a rookie he played in just three games but he was dominant in each of them. The Toronto native collected 10.5 tackles including two sacks. Sanelli comes from the GTA Grizzlies junior program where he was an all-star in 2013 and 2014.

LB Mickael Côté – 3rd year, (6’3”, 229 lbs.) Côté, a native of St. Hilaire, Que., is expected to play a major role for the Stingers in 2016. Donovan sites his speed and his leadership skills. In 2015, Côté played six games picking up 26 solo tackles and 22 assists. Seven of those tackles were for losses. He averaged 6.2 tackles a game which ranked him second overall in the RSEQ last season. The head coach says Côté is also a great special teams player which is important with his draft year coming up in 2017.

Key recruits: 

DE Trace Oswald, Houston, Texas (6’2, 258 lbs.) – Oswald played two years of high school football at Clear Lake in Houston, picking up 72 solos tackles and 50 assists in 18 games. In 2013, he went to Chadron State College, an NCAA Division II school located in Chadron, Nebraska. He was out of football in 2014 and arrived at Concordia in 2015. Donovan is looking forward to unleashing him on the Quebec conference. “He’s probably one of the best defensive ends I’ve ever seen. He’s athletic. He’s got speed. Every play he goes 100 per cent. He’s going to be fun to watch.” 

LB Sam Brodrigue, Ste-Marthe-sur-la-Lac, Que. (6’1”, 208 lbs.) – Another highly prized recruit, Brodrique played three seasons with the Champlain Cougars winning two Quebec championships. Last year in regular season play he collected 39 solo tackles, 15 assists, four sacks and two interceptions. Donovan says, “He has a great football IQ. He can run and he plays a physical game. We like his background coming from a winning program.” Brodrigue joined the Stingers in January and really stood out in winter workouts, especially the scrimmage at the end of spring camp. 

DB Jersey Henry, LaSalle, Que. (6’0”, 200 lbs.) – Henry has good size, exceptional athletic ability and plays a physical game. He’s a fast defensive back who plays like a linebacker. Henry played both safety and halfback for the Vanier Cheetahs where he suited up the last two seasons.

DB Herman Akins, Covina, Calif, (6’0”, 181 lbs.) Texas A&M Commerce University – Prior to attending the Division II university in Commerce, Texas, Akins was a four-year letter winner at Charter Oak High School. He also played two collegiate seasons at Citrus College. In his senior year at Citrus he recorded 30 solo tackles and 29 assists in 11 games. Donovan says, “He is fast, smart, physical. He’s everything you want in a football player.”

Key losses: 

S/HB Mikaël Charland – Gatineau, Que. Charland finished the 2015 season with 37 solo tackles and 19 assists for 46.5 tackles in eight games. He also had three interceptions, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery. In four seasons, Charland played in every regular season game with the Stingers. He accumulated 166 solo tackles and 66 assists for a total of 199 tackles in his career. That is the third most tackles in Concordia history. He was drafted in the second round of the 2016 CFL draft and is currently on the Ottawa RedBlacks roster.

CB Rashawn Perry – LaSalle, Que. Perry was a veteran presence in the defensive backfield and one of the team’s emotional leaders. In eight games last season, Perry picked up 19 tackles and two interceptions. He was selected to participate in the CFL’s Eastern Regional Combine in 2016.

Special Teams

Key returning player:

Return specialist James Tyrrell – 2nd year, (6’0”, 190 lbs.) This Dorval, Que. native was exceptional in his rookie year. He led the RSEQ in punt return average taking back 26 balls for 355 yards (13.7 average) and a touchdown. He also returned 10 kicks for 190 yards which ranked him fourth in the conference with a 19.0-yard average.


Kicker and punter Keegan Treloar – 5th year, Brandon, Man. – Treloar was a steady and mature player who punted and kicked last year. In his final season he collected 48 points. He connected on six of eight field goals and was perfect in 30 convert attempts. His five-year total is 301 points which ranks him fourth on the RSEQ list for most points in a career.


Source: Catherine Grace, Concordia Sports Info

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