Rams announce defensive, special teams players

University of Regina Rams head coach Steve Bryce announced Wednesday the commitment of 17 players on the defensive and special teams sides of the ball, including a pair of local recruits that have already garnered experience at the international level.

Defensive back Jaxon Ford (pictured, left) and linebacker Josh White (right), both critical parts of Campbell Collegiate’s provincial championship from last fall, were also teammates on Team Canada’s U18 squad at the 2018 International Bowl in Arlington, Texas. Both players were named team captains for Canada at that event, while White was also named the tournament defensive MVP for Team Saskatchewan at the 2017 Football Canada Cup last summer.

“It’s extremely exciting for this program to be able to keep two athletes of this calibre right from our back yard,” Bryce said. “Both of them have exceptional leadership skills, they’ve been well coached throughout their development, and we expect both of them to bring so much to the Rams over the next number of years.”

Bryce is also high on cornerback Chase Ellingson, who committed to the Rams last summer but chose to return to the Royal Imperial Collegiate of Canada in St. Catharines, Ont. for an additional season. Ellingson is considered by the Rams staff to be one of the top defensive backs in the country coming out of high school this season.

“With us graduating Jeff Propp and Korey Sheppard-Greene, we fully expect Chase to be one of the guys that will be in the mix to challenge for a spot in the defensive backfield,” Bryce said. “The extra year at RICC allowed Chase to further his skills and develop his leadership abilities as that team’s captain, and we’re excited to see how his athleticism and on-field aggressiveness will translate to the next level.”

The Rams looked to the junior ranks for five of their commitments, including a pair of defensive backs in Brandon Gandire (Westshore Rebels) and Tyson Haubrich (Regina Thunder). The other three are all linebackers, including Tyler McStravick (Valley Huskers), Tanner Smith (Regina Thunder), and Malik Williams (Westshore Rebels). Williams has two seasons of U SPORTS eligibility, McStravick has three remaining, Gandire and Smith have four years left, while Haubrich will have five full seasons to play with the Rams.

Besides White and the three junior commits, the Rams will add three other linebackers directly from the high school ranks including Peyton Ryder, who helped the Christchurch Seahorses to a Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Div. II state championship while earning all-state honours last season. Ryan Jensen recently committed to the Rams out of Hugh Boyd Secondary (North Vancouver, B.C.) while Ethan Howitt joins the fold out of Regina’s Thom Collegiate.

Ellingson, Ford, Gandire, and Haubrich will be joined by a trio of local products out of Regina-area high schools, including Will Genert (Miller), Josh Girodat (Riffel), and Jackson Sombach (Miller).

The Rams will also welcome a pair of newcomers to the defensive line. Bryce considers Winston Knoll’s Zach Hirshmiller the top defensive lineman in the city this year, while Luke Turner comes to the Rams after excelling in six-man football for the Assiniboia Rockets.

Connor Green will come in as a placekicker and punter for the Rams after only two seasons of organized football. Green, a converted soccer player at Portage Collegiate in Portage la Prairie, Man. had a strong performance for Manitoba at the 2017 Football Canada Cup to catch the attention of the Rams’ coaching staff.

All 17 players will put on a Rams uniform for the first time this weekend at the team’s spring camp, which will be held from Friday to Sunday. Weather permitting, the team will open up the camp with a walkthrough on Friday night (7:00 to 9:00 PM) at the U of R Field before two morning practices on Saturday and Sunday (6:00 to 10:00 AM) at the EventPlex at Evraz Place.

DB Chase Ellingson • 6-0, 190 • 1st • Swan River, Man. (Royal Imperial Collegiate of Canada)
–    Played for Team Manitoba at the 2015 and 2016 Football Canada Cup
–    Was originally a commit to the Rams for 2017, but elected to return to RICC for an additional season
–    Starting cornerback and team captain for RICC
–    Bryce: “Chase is arguably the best graduating defensive back in the country this year. His athleticism and aggressiveness will help him push to be an impact player very quickly for us. Chase was a standout at cornerback for RICC and that’s where we project him to play at the next level.”

DB Jaxon Ford • 5-11, 190 • 1st • Regina, Sask. (Campbell Collegiate)
–    Named to Team Canada’s reserve roster for the 2018 World Junior Championship
–    Team captain for Canada’s U18 squad at the 2018 International Bowl
–    Played for Saskatchewan’s U18 team at the Football Canada Cup in both 2016 and 2017
–    Helped the Campbell Tartans win the 4A provincial championship in 2017
–    Bryce: “Jaxon is one of the best leaders we’ve recruited this season. He’s a very dynamic athlete, is very well disciplined, and could play any number of positions for us. We think Jaxon is one of the top halfbacks coming out of Western Canada this season.”

DB Brandon Gandire • 6-1, 185 • 2nd • Chilliwack, B.C. (Westshore Rebels)
–    Had 11½ tackles and two interceptions in six regular season games last year for Westshore
–    Won a Cullen Cup as the BCFC champions in 2016 with the Rebels
–    Bryce: “Brandon is an incredible athlete that comes to us with four seasons still to play. He high-points the ball, is a great man-cover guy, and closes exceptionally well. Brandon is a real high-character kid that has the potential to be a key piece of a championship-winning team.”

DB Will Genert • 5-10, 155 • 1st • Regina, Sask. (Miller Comprehensive HS)
–    Had 22 tackles and an interception last season, helping Miller to a 5-2 league record
–    Played at safety for the Marauders
–    Bryce: “Will is a good, young defensive back that plays very smart. He’s got some raw ability that could turn him into a very good player down the road.”

DB Josh Girodat • 6-0, 185 • 1st • Regina, Sask. (Michael A. Riffel HS)
–    Played for Saskatchewan’s U18 team at the 2016 Football Canada Cup
–    Had 21 tackles, two interceptions, two pass deflections, a sack, and a fumble recovery for Riffel last season
–    Bryce: “Josh is one of the more physical defensive backs in Regina. He loves contact and that’s what we like about him. Josh is great at separating the ball carrier from the ball and he’ll project as a halfback at the U SPORTS level.”

K/P Connor Green • 5-8, 160 • 1st • Portage la Prairie, Man. (Portage Collegiate)
–    Played for Manitoba’s U18 team at the 2017 Football Canada Cup
–    Converted soccer player that only started playing football two seasons ago
–    Bryce: “Connor caught our attention playing for Team Manitoba last summer. He’s got a live leg that connects with the ball very well, and he’ll work towards being a multi-dimensional guy that can both kick and punt.”

DB Tyson Haubrich • 5-11, 180 • 1st • Regina, Sask. (Regina Thunder)
–    Played two seasons for the Regina Thunder after graduating from Thom Collegiate in 2016
–    Had six tackles, a fumble recovery, and a forced fumble in 2016
–    Saw his field team increase significantly in 2017, finishing the regular season with 30 tackles, four interceptions, and three pass deflections
–    Bryce: “Tyson is an exciting addition for us due to his skill set, dedication, and the fact that he’s still got five years of U SPORTS football to play. He’s been very committed in the weight room and has shown rapid improvement over the past two seasons with the Thunder.”

DL Zach Hirshmiller • 6-1, 220 • 1st • Regina, Sask. (Winston Knoll Collegiate)
–    Played for Saskatchewan’s U18 team at the 2017 Football Canada Cup
–    Had 17 tackles and a fumble recovery last season for Knoll
–    Bryce: “Zach is the top defensive lineman coming out of Regina this year. He’s got great fundamentals that we expect will transfer well to the U SPORTS level. Zach is very coachable, dedicated, and loves the grind of the line of scrimmage.”

LB Ethan Howitt • 6-0, 185 • 1st • Regina, Sask. (Thom Collegiate)
–    Piled up 45 tackles, four interceptions, five pass deflections, and a sack for Thom last season
–    Four interceptions tied for the 3A league lead
–    Bryce: “Ethan is a spectacular student-athlete that I first noticed at Thom’s practice. He had a sensational year for the Trojans last season and when I found out he had a 96% average, that sealed the deal for me. Ethan also has an extremely late birthdate, which for me means he might have an even higher ceiling.”

LB Ryan Jensen • 6-3, 205 • 1st • North Vancouver, B.C. (Hugh Boyd Secondary)
–    Played for Team British Columbia at the 2017 Football Canada Cup
–    Was credited with 41 tackles and an interception last season with Hugh Boyd
–    Bryce: “Ryan is a guy that we knew nothing about until he sent in a film a couple of months ago. We like the amount of ground he can cover when he’s moving, and being as tall as he is he takes up a lot of space out there. He’s a big, rangy guy that we project as an outside linebacker at this level.”

LB Tyler McStravick • 6-1, 180 • 3rd • Mission, B.C. (Valley Huskers)
–    Played for four seasons with the Valley Huskers after graduating from Mission Secondary
–    Had career total of 97½ tackles, four interceptions, five pass deflections, and four sacks with Valley
–    Bryce: “Tyler is an athletic linebacker that closes well. He reached out to us and we liked his film and the fact that he’s played well against quality competition. Tyler will have a chance to get into our system here and continue his development.”

LB Peyton Ryder • 5-9, 200 • 1st • Newport News, Va. (Christchurch School)
–    Helped the Christchurch Seahorses win the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association’s Div. II title last season
–    Played linebacker in addition to fullback for Christchurch, rushing 93 times for 566 yards and eight touchdowns while also registering over 100 tackles during the 2017 campaign
–    Named VISAA Div. II defensive first-team all-state following the 2017 season
–    Attended Phoebus HS in Hampton, Va. before transferring to Christchurch
–    Bryce: “If Peyton was six feet tall, he’d be sorting through NCAA Div. I offers right now. He plays like a young Zach Thomas – a sparkplug on defence that plays with bad intentions, and we love that. Peyton is stoutly built and will have a real opportunity to make a huge impact for us in the coming seasons.”

LB Tanner Smith • 6-1, 220 • 2nd • Regina, Sask. (Regina Thunder)
–    Played three seasons with the Regina Thunder after graduating from Campbell Collegiate in 2015
–    Accumulated 43 tackles and a sack over three seasons with the Thunder
–    Bryce: “Tanner is a good, fundamentally sound linebacker out of the Thunder program. He’s got a good frame and has built up some good experience in the PFC. I like his film and he’ll be a great addition to special teams right away while working into our down defence in the near future.”

DB Jackson Sombach • 5-7, 160 • 1st • Regina, Sask. (Miller Comprehensive HS)
–    Played for Saskatchewan’s U18 team at the 2016 Football Canada Cup
–    Had 23 tackles, an interception, two pass deflections, and a fumble recovery last season for Miller
–    Bryce: “Jackson is an extremely football-savvy ball hawk. He knows where everyone on the field is supposed to be, and you can just tell he’s a guy that watches a huge amount of film. Jackson is coming off an injury and is likely looking at a redshirt season, but our expectations are extremely high for the future.”

DL Luke Turner • 6-2, 240 • 1st • Wood Mountain, Sask. (Assiniboia Composite HS)
–    Played for Saskatchewan’s U18 team at the 2017 Football Canada Cup
–    Has played six-man football with the Assiniboia Rockets in addition to 12-man football with the South Sask Selects
–    Bryce: “I love the emotional investment that Luke has in the game. He plays with a high level of commitment that some players just lack, and he’s got all the tools to turn into a dominant defensive lineman for us. He’s got enough athleticism to play as a tackle or as an end here.”

CFC100 LB Josh White • 6-1, 185 • 1st • Regina, Sask. (Campbell Collegiate)
–    Named to Team Canada’s roster for the 2018 World Junior Championship
–    Competed for Team Canada’s U18 squad at the 2018 International Bowl
–    Played for Saskatchewan’s U18 team at the Football Canada Cup in both 2016 and 2017, being named the Defensive MVP of the 2017 tournament
–    Had 59 tackles, two fumble recoveries, an interception, and a sack in seven regular season games in 2017 with Campbell
–    Helped Campbell win the 4A provincial championship last season
–    Bryce: “We think Josh is simply the best graduating linebacker in the country this year, and we couldn’t be happier he chose to stay home. He’s got size, athleticism, quickness, a love of hitting – everything you’d want in a top-tier linebacker, he’s got it and then some. We can’t wait to see what kind of impact he’ll have next year and beyond for the Rams.”

LB Malik Williams • 6-0, 205 • 4th • Bellingham, Wash. (Westshore Rebels)
–    Had 9½ tackles and a pass breakup last season for Westshore
–    Bryce: “Mo played at sam linebacker for Westshore, so he could be a guy that could play halfback or linebacker for us. He’s played against some top-tier competition and he could step in immediately and challenge for a spot not only on special teams, but elsewhere on the field as well.”


Source: Regina Rams

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