Guelph coaching staff announced

Left-to-right: Donnavan Carter (special teams), Dennis McPhee (defensive coordinator), Ryan Sheahan (head coach), Mark Surya (offensive coordinator)

GUELPH, Ont. – On Friday (April 5) the University of Guelph football program officially announced the team’s coaching staff for the upcoming 2019 season.

First-year head coach Ryan Sheahan has added a pair of proven coordinators to his sideline, with Mark Surya taking on the role of offensive coordinator while Donnavan Carter will oversee the Gryphon special teams. Both Surya and Carter arrive at U of G having spent the previous two seasons in coordinator roles at the University of Toronto. The news comes less than two months after the Gryphons announced the signing of long-time CFL coach Dennis McPhee, who was named Guelph’s new defensive coordinator back on February 15.

“It was very important to me to try to assemble a staff that was, first and foremost, made up of great people who care about the overall development of our student-athletes,” says Gryphon head coach Ryan Sheahan.

Mark Surya addresses U of T players during 2018 season
Mark Surya addresses U of T players during the 2018 season

“I thought we really hit a grand slam with the additions of Dennis, Donnavan and Mark.”

At just 30-years-old, Mark Surya has already established himself as one of the top offensive minds in the conference after having previously held offensive coordinator positions at both Wilfrid Laurier University as well as U of T. During his final season as offensive coordinator with the Golden Hawks in 2016, Surya handled play-calling duties for a Laurier offence that led the country in rushing yards per game (281.4), while also ranking second in points per game (42.6) and total touchdowns (43). That season, Surya was part of a Laurier team that claimed the 109th Yates Cup with a come-from-behind 43-40 win over the Western Mustangs.

“I think this place has a chance to be a national championship contender every year,” says Surya, who holds a Masters of Science in Kinesiology as well as a PhD in Psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University.

Mark Surya at U of T
Mark Surya at U of T

“Offensively, the running game here has been so successful in recent years, and we want to build off of that, but we also want to be known for big plays down the field in terms of a vertical passing attack, so there may be a bit of a change in philosophy in that regard. Theo (Landers) is a talented quarterback. Everyone knows about his athleticism, but we really want to highlight him as a passer.”

For head coach Ryan Sheahan, the addition of Mark Surya to the staff serves as a huge benefit to the student-athletes not only on the field, but in the classroom as well, “Mark is probably the most educated coach that I have ever come across,” says Sheahan, who served as Surya’s positional coach during the Queen’s Gael’s 2009 Vanier Cup-winning season. “Our players have already been regularly heading into Mark’s office, seeking guidance or assistance with regards to classroom tactics to try to get some insight in terms of how to study more effectively or how to improve their essay writing skills. And when it comes to football x’s and o’s, there is nothing I can throw on the white board or on film that he doesn’t grasp right away. We are almost one heartbeat when it comes to offensive strategy and I look forward to working with him to try to improve our offensive output.”

For many of the players on the Gryphons current roster, there is a familiar face taking over the role of special teams coordinator.

Donnavan Carter served as defensive backs coach with the Gryphons in 2016
Donnavan Carter served as Guelph’s defensive backs coach in 2016

Donnavan Carter returns to the University of Guelph for his second stint as a Gryphon after spending the 2016 season as U of G’s defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator. During his playing days, Carter achieved all-star status at both the NCAA level (Northern Illinois Huskies) as well as the CFL level, where he played eight seasons with four different teams.

“It’s awesome to be back in Guelph,” says Carter, a 43-year-old Brampton native who has been coaching in the OUA since 2008, holding defensive coordinator positions with both the Windsor Lancers as well as the Toronto Varsity Blues. “The Gryphons have done an outstanding job on special teams in recent years and I’m hoping to add to that and take it to the next level.

Donnovan Carter in 2018 as U of T's defensive coordinator
Donnovan Carter in 2018 as U of T’s defensive coordinator

I’ve been fortunate in my coaching career to be around some great football minds and have had the opportunity to attend the past two CFL camps with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. (Head coach) Craig Dickenson has really helped to provide me with a great platform to jump off from and I feel like I now have my own identity as a coach. I’m just looking forward to working with the student-athletes here to refine some of their techniques and further develop their overall mindset.”

While Carter’s accolades and coaching resume speaks for itself, it is his demeanour and overall character that stands out to head coach Ryan Sheahan, “The first thing you notice about Donnavan when you work with him is that he’s a caring, loving person. He has played at the highest level our country has to offer, he has a strong NCAA background, and I think he is the perfect person to mentor our young student-athletes on special teams as well as assisting on defence.”

The Gryphons will hold their 2019 Spring Camp April 22-26 at Alumni Stadium. The 2019 season officially gets underway in mid-August when the team reports to training camp, with the first day of on-field action set for August 15. The Gryphons will officially kick off the 2019 OUA football season with a home game versus the McMaster Marauders on Sunday, August 25.

Donnavan Carter Bio:

Coaching Career:
2019:  Special Teams Coordinator (Guelph Gryphons)
2017-18:  Special Teams Coordinator & Linebackers Coach (Toronto Varsity Blues)
2016:  Recruiting Coordinator & Defensive Backs Coach (Guelph Gryphons)
2013-2015:  Associate Head Coach & Defensive Coordinator (Windsor Lancers)
2008-12:  Defensive Coordinator & Defensive Backs Coach (Toronto Varsity Blues)

Additional Coaching:
East-West Bowl (Defensive Coordinator 2009, 2011, 2013)
Team Ontario (multiple time defensive assistant and coordinator for Team Ontario, 2012-2019)
Etobicoke Eagles Defensive Coordinator (OVFL – 2010)

Bachelor of Science – Management (Northern Illinois University, 1999)

Playing Career:
1996-1999:  Northern Illinois Huskies (NCAA) * Mid-American Conference’s most valuable defensive player in 1999 *
2000-2007:  Played 8 seasons in CFL (Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton & Winnipeg)  * CFL all-star in ’03 with Ottawa *

Mark Surya Bio:

Coaching Career:
2019:  Offensive Coordinator (Guelph Gryphons)
2017-18:  Offensive Coordinator (Toronto Varsity Blues)
2013-16:  Offensive Coordinator & Receivers Coach (Laurier Golden Hawks)

Additional Coaching:
2016:  U SPORTS East West Bowl (Offensive Coordinator)
2015:  U SPORTS East West Bowl (Receivers Coach)

PhD, psychology (Wilfrid Laurier University – 2018)
MSc, Kin (WLU – 2011)
BSc, Kin (Queen’s – 2009)

Playing Career:
2007-09:  Queen’s Gaels, Receiver (won Vanier Cup with Queen’s in 2009)
2010-11:  Laurier Golden Hawks, Receiver

2019 Gryphon Football Coaching Staff

Head Coach:  Ryan Sheahan (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator:  Dennis McPhee
Offensive Coordinator:  Mark Surya
Special Teams Coordinator:  Donnavan Carter
Offensive Line:  Mike MacDonald
Defensive Line:  Brian Cluff
Linebackers: Joe Sardo
Defensive Backs:  Mark Forsyth
Quarterbacks/Football Operations:  Stevenson Bone
Running Backs/Assistant Strength Coach:  Bryce Harper
Assistant Offensive Line: Tom Sterling
Receivers: Devan Sheahan
Offensive Assistant: Rob Kitching
Kicking Coach: Daniel Ferraro
Player Personnel: John Casasanta
Player Personnel: Stephen O’Brien
Academic Coordinator: Lindsay Williams
Equipment Manager: Frank Tersigni

Source: Guelph Gryphons

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