CJFL Offseason Forecast: Saskatoon Hilltops

A closer look at the Hilltops needs for 2016

The Saskatoon Hilltops are coming off yet another dominating season, losing just once and winning the 2015 Canadian Bowl on their home turf.

As in most seasons the Hilltops will lose a handful of players to graduation, but they have the depth and rotation with the “next guy up” buy in.

What’s Changing?

Head Coach Tom Sargeant will return to guide the Toppers in 2016, but has added to his job description as the new running backs coach.  Matt Yausie will take over the special teams portfolio in just his second season.

On the board side of things, a new President has been announced with Eric Nimilovich taking over the reigns.  Outgoing President Jeff Gould will remain on the executive as the past President.

Graduating Players:

OL Terry Thesen:  The All-Canadian is a big loss up front not only his veteran leadership, but his sheer mass as well.  He was able to punch open holes for the Hilltops running game, one of the most featured across the country.

OL Nathan Heide: Like Thesen, Heide eats up a lot of real estate at the line.  He was able to create running lanes for the likes of Logan Fischer and Wayndel Lewis before him.

R Chad Braun: A multi-talented athlete, Braun was extremely effective catching passes as well as running back kicks.  As a returner in 2015 he returned 28 punts for a Conference high 320 yards with an 11.4 average return.  As a receiver he hauled in a Conference high 31 passes for 349 yards and three majors.

DL Matt Kozun: One of the best defensive linemen in Hilltops history.  In 2015 he won his second straight All-Canadian following nine tackles, five assists, 2.5 sacks, two knockdowns and a forced fumble.

DL Blake Adams:   He is another big body on the line that the Hilltops will sorely miss.   He was agile enough for a big man tallying 10 tackles in 2015 along with 12 assists and a pair of sacks.

What They Need:

As usual each and every team is in need of more offensive lineman and the defending champs are no different.

Traditionally the Hilltops line is asked to do many different things, whether its pass blocking or opening a running lane for their outstanding rushers.  The Hilltops are also in need of some quality receivers following Braun’s graduation.

Quarterback Jared Andreychuk enters his final year and he will need a new weapon or two to put them right back into contention.

Counting On:

As they did in their championship run in 2015, the Hilltops will look to their two returning leaders to ensure a repeat of last year.  On the defensive side the CJFL’s Defensive Player of the Year Cole Benkic will return to anchor his club and is a welcomed presence for the coaching staff.  Last year he collected 19 tackles, 13 assists, 0.5 sacks, 3 knockdowns, 2 fumble recoveries, three interceptions, one for a touchdown.

The other vet the Hilltops are counting on is quarterback Jared Andreychuk.  With his calm demeanor and veteran experiences, he’ll lead by example on the field.  In 2015 he was the best pivot in the PFC with a passer efficient rating of 113.4% and 108 completions.  The Saskatoon native connected on 64.3% of his passes and passed for 1577 yards and 18 touchdowns on 108 completions.

Regardless of who is on the field for the Hilltops, they will be solid.  A number of returners are back in 2016 looking to repeat with the national finale Canadian Bowl in the BCFC.

The Hilltops open their 2016 Spring Camp from May 6-9, then their main camp opens in August.

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