VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds football team will open its 2012 training camp tomorrow on David Sidoo Field at Thunderbird Stadium.

Reigning Canada West Coach of the Year Shawn Olson, along with his staff, will lead the 94 players in attendance for the two-week camp.

“We took some important strides last year, proving we can compete with the best teams in the country,” said Olson.  “The goal this season is to take another step forward in our quest to becoming a consistent contender in the Canada West.”

UBC is looking to build off an impressive 2011 season.  The team won six of eight regular season games and beat Saskatchewan in the Canada West semi-finals before losing to Calgary in the Hardy Cup final.  It was the program’s first appearance in the Canada West Championship since 1999.

Due to the use of an ineligible player, the team’s official record was 0-8.

“Between our impressive group of recruits and our returning players, everybody has been working hard this off-season and is chomping at the bit to get going,” said Olson.

The Thunderbirds return nine starters on offence in 2012, including the 2011 Hec Crighton trophy winner, quarterback Billy Greene and Second Team All-Canadian receiver Jordan Grieve.

Defensively, UBC has a number of holes to fill with the departure of eight starters; fortunately, they boast a ton of depth, which should create a competitive atmosphere for playing time during training camp.

The team will go through two practices a day starting on Saturday.  That will continue until Saturday, Aug. 25, when UBC hosts Menlo College in a non-conference game.

There will be two-a-days on Aug. 26 and 27 before the team begins preparations for its Canada West season-operner against Manitoba on Saturday, Sept. 1 at Thunderbird Stadium.  The game will be broadcast live on CiTR-FM 101.9 and on CanadaWest.tv.

Number of returning starters: 9

Key returning players:
QB Billy Greene – The reigning Hec Crighton trophy winner as the CIS football’s top player and First Team All-Canadian returns for his fifth and final season with the blue and gold. He led the entire nation in passing and total offense last season, averaging 319.8 yards per game passing and 380.0 yards of total offense per game. In the process he threw for 20 touchdown passes and just 4 interceptions. Greene became just the third player in UBC football history to take home the Hec Crighton trophy joining Jordan Gaganer (1987) and Mark Nohra (1997).

REC Jordan Grieve – Grieve is coming off a stellar 2011 campaign in which he was named a Second Team All-Canadian receiver. In 8 games during the regular season last year, Grieve made 41 grabs for 768 yards. He also averaged the fourth most receiving yards per game in the CIS, with 96.0 yards per game.

REC David Scott – The native of El Paso, Texas is another weapon in Billy Greene‘s arsenal. He is coming off a season in which he was fifth in the Canada West in receiving yards with 448 yards, averaging 56.0 yards per game. He also chipped in with two touchdown catches.

OL Kelly Kurisu – Kurisu is back for his fourth season and will make the move from tackle to the interior to anchor the Thunderbirds offensive line, which returns four of five starters from last year.

Key recruits or transfers:
OL Alec Pennell – The product of Port Coquitlam, BC joins the Thunderbirds after two seasons with the Vancouver Island Raiders of the BCFC. He was a dominant force on the offensive line earning numerous accolades, including being named a Canadian Junior Football League All-Canadian in 2011.

REC Daniel English – A transfer from Division 1 New Mexico St., English joins an already impressive receiving corps featuring the likes of Jordan GrieveDavid Scott and Joey Gabrick. The New Westminster, BC product impressed at spring camp, proving he has big play potential.

RB Taylor Souster – The former Edmonton Wildcats standout will get a chance to compete with the likes of Brandon Deschamps for the starting running back job in 2012. Last year he was second in the Prairie Football Conference in rushing with 605 yards on 118 carries, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He also had a pair of touchdowns.

Key losses:
RB Dave Boyd – Leaves a big hole in the offensive backfield after 5 years with the Thunderbirds. Last year he picked up 469 yards on the ground and another 163 yards in receiving.

REC Spencer Betts – A fixture in the Thunderbirds line up since his rookie season, Betts is lost for the season due to hip surgery.

OL Patrick Sullivan – After transferring from Queen’s, Sullivan anchored the offensive line in his only season with the Thunderbirds playing the all important blindside tackle position.

Number of returning starters: 4

Key returning players:
DB Kofi Kuma-Mintah – The fourth year product moves from cornerback to halfback this season as the lone returning player in the secondary. He will be looking to improve on last year’s numbers in which he had 20 tackles and one interception.

LB Vivie Bojilov – With the loss of Devin Kavanagh and Adam Konar, Bojilov will be relied upon to be the leader in the middle of the Thunderbirds defense. In six games last season he had 26 tackles, two tackles for a loss, two interceptions, and one fumble recovery. The key will be whether or not he is able to do it for an entire season.

DL- Kareem Ba – A big physical player, Ba will anchor the defensive line. He is coming off an appearance at the 2012 CIS East West Bowl and last year he registered 12 tackles, one for a loss.

DL – Spencer Wilson – Last season, Wilson forced himself into the starting line up by the end of the regular season. The coaching couldn’t keep him off the field. In just 4 regular season games, he had 11 tackles and one sack. He is expected to make big strides once again in 2012.

Key recruits or transfers:
LB Joseph Malabuyoc – The Vancouver product returns to his hometown after stops at the University of Hawaii and a tryout with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2011. He will bring veteran leadership and experience to this young, up and coming defence.

DL Steve Mawa – Another homegrown talent returns to BC after a stint at junior college in California. The bruising lineman had 14 tackles and two sacks last year for Santa Rosa and will provide the Thunderbirds with depth, size, and skill on the defensive line.

DB Miguel Barker – The former Edmonton Wildcat impressed at spring camp and proved he has the athleticism, maturity, and readiness to step in to a starters role on defence.

Key losses
DL Serge Kaminsky – Over the last three years the hulking defensive lineman accumulated 11.5 sacks while earning Second Team All-Canadian honours in 2010. His physical and emotional presence will be missed.

DB Sam Carino – One of the best shutdown corners in the country last year, Carino played out his eligibility with the Thunderbirds in 2011 earning Second Team All-Canadian honours.

DB Chris Mark – The 6-foot-5, 220-pound safety was an imposing figure in the secondary for any opposing quarterback. Last year he had two interceptions to go along with 33.5 tackles.

DB Alex Babalos – Out for the season due to injury, Babalos proved to be versatile player for the Thunderbirds over the years, playing anywhere from linebacker, to halfback, to safety. He also will be missed on special teams where he was a key contributor.


Key returning players:
P/K Thomas Moult – After redshirting last year, the Calgary product takes over the kicking duties for the Thunderbirds and will be looking to show off his big leg. Primarily a place kicker, he has spent the offseason working on his punting and is confident he can handle both duties during the season.

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