2016 CIS team preview: Queen’s Gaels

Source: Shawn MacDonald (Sports Information Officer), Queen’s Gaels

After 45 years of football at the old Richardson Stadium on West Campus, the Gaels said goodbye to the natural grass field and familiar stands at the end of the 2015 season. With pressure to get back into the playoffs after a year hiatus, Queen’s finished the 2015 regular season with five wins and home field advantage in the first round of the OUA playoffs. Despite being ousted by Carleton in the OUA quarterfinals, the Gaels can take pride in having upset the Yates Cup Champion Guelph Gryphons earlier in the year on a record-setting 108 yard touchdown pass from Nate Hobbs to Matteo Del Brocco.

The new Richardson Stadium stands ready for its grand opening on September 17 against the rival Western Mustangs, and this season, Queen’s will play on artificial turf at home for the first time in the football team’s history. While the offence will be looking for new rushing and receiving leaders, quarterback Nate Hobbs is back as the starter in his third season with the Gaels after finishing 2015 with the fifth-most passing yards in the OUA. Peter Hannon and Matteo Del Brocco are expected to step into top receiving positions after both had solid production last year. On the ground, it’s Jonah Pataki‘s turn to take the starting running back spot in his fourth year with Queen’s while the Gaels have depth and options at the position with the likes of returnees Adam Black and Brad Innis

Defensively, the familiar faces at linebacker and in the backfield should overshadow the loss of a couple veteran linemen. Mike MooreJustin Bowman and Nelkas Kwemo return as anchors in the linebacking core after both finishing among the OUA’s top tacklers, despite an injury that sidelined Kwemo for the final three games of the season. The Gaels have a wealth of third-year talent at the defensive back position, highlighted by Jason ShamatutuMatt Pendergast and Chris Mackey, who all finished with over 35 solo tackles in 2015.

“This will be the third year of the current development cycle at Queen’s. A number of underclassmen have acquired some significant ‘on-the job’ training over the past two seasons that should pay dividends this year. We are a work in progress with potential to be in the hunt if we can stay healthy at key some positions.” – Pat Sheahan

Head Coach: Pat Sheahan
– Number of seasons as head coach with team (including 2016):17
– Number of seasons as head coach in CIS (including 2016): 28
– Career regular season record with team: 80-48
– Career regular season record in CIS:  128-81-1
– Career overall record with team (reg. season & playoffs only): 92-59
– Career overall record in CIS (reg. season & playoffs only): 146-100-1

Number of returning starters: 7

Key returning players:
WR Matteo Del Brocco enters his third season with the Gaels and is becoming a prominent target on offence. His one touchdown reception turned heads as he set a new Queen’s record on a 108-yard score, helping him earn the highest yards per catch average on the Gaels roster at 23.3.

OL Daniel Hayes has started every game for the Gaels during the last two seasons, transitioning from right tackle in 2014 to right guard last year. The 6’4″ native of Waterloo, Ont. will be surrounded by familiar faces in his third year on an experienced offensive line.

QB Nate Hobbs cracked the OUA top five for passing yards per game (278.3) in his first year as the Gaels starter. In addition to throwing for over 400 yards in a game against Toronto, Hobbs also showed promise on the ground, averaging over 30 yards per game and running in three touchdowns in his second year at Queen’s.

RB Jonah Pataki enters 2016 as the starting running back for the first time in his four-year Gaels career. After playing in the shadow of Jesse Andrews, Pataki surpassed his teammate in the scoring department, ending last year fifth in OUA rushing touchdowns with six.

Key recruits or transfers: Jack Hache (WR), Josh Mosley (OL)

Key losses: Jesse Andrews (RB), Curtis Carmichael (WR), Doug Corby (WR), Justin Gleben (FB)

Number of returning starters: 8

Key returning players:
LB Nelkas Kwemo missed the final three regular season games of 2015, but still managed to finish second in the OUA with 7.2 tackles per game. Kwemo’s outstanding season was highlighted by 12 solo tackles in a single game against Ottawa, a mark that is second only to former Gael Sam Sabourin’s 13.

LB Mike Moore matched his stellar rookie year, once again leading the Gaels as one of the top 10 tacklers in the OUA. A versatile linebacker, Moore also recorded a sack, a forced fumble, and an interception last year.

DL Zac Sauer anchored the defensive line in 2015, getting to the opposing quarterback more than any other Gael to finish in the OUA top 10 with 4.5 sacks. Sauer’s 33 tackles in his third year were a career-high, including a nine-tackle performance against Guelph.

DB Jason Shamatutu improved his tackling numbers from a stand-out rookie year, finishing last season second on the Gaels roster with 42.5 tackles. Shamatutu’s 37 solo tackles leave him tied for seventh in the OUA with fellow Gael DB Matt Pendergast.

Key recruits or transfers: Philippe Archambault (LB), Dominic Ciraco (LB)

Key losses: Luke Ball (DL), Natu Myers (DL), Corey Flude (DL), Frederic Kinkead (DB)

Key returning players:
WR/PR Chris Osei-Kusi earned a spot on the OUA All-Rookie team in 2015, despite playing in only five regular season games. In the final two games of the regular season, Osei-Kusi returned one punt for a touchdown and combined for 272 return yards from punts and kickoffs.

Key recruits or transfers: Nick Liberatore (K/P)

Key losses: Dillon Wamsley (K/P), Doug Corby (PR/KR)

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