CFL puts duo to the test
By Ian Ross
The very best of Canadian varsity football talent collected in Winnipeg over the weekend to strut their stuff in front of Canadian Football League scouts and coaches.
Western defensive end Roger Dunbrack and wide receiver Ryan Hazzard joined 46 other invited university athletes to display their skills at the league's annual athletic combine an annual two-day screening schedule held in anticipation of the upcoming CFL draft.
Each athlete was tested for their bench press, broad jump, vertical and 40-metre dash in addition to live play action.
"It was good to see the best of Canadian talent. It was a very competitive camp," Dunbrack said. "It is hard to say how well I did, but the coaches at Western prepared me well. I've been working on my agility coming into the testing."
Nick Volte, director of Canadian scouting for the Toronto Argonauts, was looking to fill holes at the linebacker, safety and kicker positions and did not feel this year's talent pool was outstanding in comparison to past years. However, along with other scouts, Volte was impressed by Dunbrack's display of skill and ability in all aspects of the combine.
"Dunbrack measured up well. He ran well and showed incredible athletic ability. He will definitely be drafted early," Volte said. "[Hazzard] didn't run as well as people hoped. I think they were looking for a little more speed. He will probably go in the later rounds."
Western head coach Larry Haylor pointed out that a number of factors prevented Hazzard from performing to his best ability, including the fact that he struggled with injuries last season.
Hazzard, himself, recognized he was not at his peak performance level for the combine, but hoped that his natural skill shined through to onlooking scouts. "I didn't test well, but my best part was the one on one. Nathan Body from Guelph threw me some great passes and I made some good grabs," he said.
While Haylor was happy to see invitations passed out to two of his top players, he felt that up to five Mustang athletes were worthy of displaying their skills at the combine. He notes that budget cuts resulted in a reduced field of attending athletes, which he worries may affect the quantity of talent that scouts are directly exposed to.
"I think evaluating Canadian talent has been the key for CFL clubs," he said. "Teams that have been successful in the past always have top Canadians. Evaluating top Canadian talent is far more crucial than finding Americans."
Volte feels that the exposure of the combine is a key component of the draft and agrees that the ability to identify the best athletes available is important to developing strong athletes. "Most of those drafted will start on special teams, but they need to be able to step up after two or three years into impact players if the club hopes to succeed."
HIT FIRST AND ASK QUESTIONS LATER. THAT'S WHAT I ALWAYS SAY. Mustangs Roger Dunbrack  and Ryan Hazzard [inset] took their talent on the road to Winnipeg for the CFL combine on the weekend.