Assistant Sports Editor
Before each CIS football season, programs from coast to coast compete in a recruiting frenzy for the nation’s premier high school in order to develop for the future and address team needs with hopes of building the next Vanier Cup contender.
For the McMaster Marauders, as defending Vanier Cup champions, this year’s recruiting season provides an opportunity for the coaching staff to establish connections with high school players based on a winning reputation alone. Adding to their already youthful lineup, head coach Stefan Ptaszek and his staff has been aggressive, making waves recently by releasing a star-studded list of 16 defensive prospects from around Ontario.
“It is all about personal relationships and getting to know the best players around the country. Certainly the big trophy in my office and the Vanier cup rings may help break some of the ties in the competitive recruiting wars, but there is still allot of elbow grease in getting to know these kids around the country” said Ptaszek.
It would appear from the announcement that the emphasis lies on the defensive side of the ball for the Marauders, especially on line, which was one of the most experienced units for Mac in their Vanier Cup run.
“Defensive line is an area that we need to address. There are three or four young men coming to camp that will provide some depth, help keep us afloat and in the long-term become excellent football players,” said Ptaszek.
“One kid in particular to note is Zach Intzandt from London, he is one of the best D-lineman in that city and it is good to get him away from the evil empire [the rival Western Mustangs] down there is a big victory for us,” he continued.
Intzandt, a 6’4” 275 lb. beast from London’s St. Thomas Aquinas leads the group of defensive recruits, but offensively there remains some grey area for Ptaszek and his staff.
“We are going to announce some receivers in the coming weeks that are going to add some value,” he shared staying tight lipped about both the remaining targets and players that have already committed.
As expected, there are plenty of question marks surrounding certain offensive positions, namely at quarterback, with pivot Kyle Quinlan on CFL draft boards after competing at this month’s combine in Toronto. Regardless of whether he returns for his final year of eligibility, the Marauders are beginning to prepare for life after their star, which may be an easier transition that originally thought.
During this past season backup Marshall Ferguson, who was a highly touted recruit in his own regard, emerged as a more than suitable successor to fill the large shoes left by Quinlan.
McMaster is also interested in a pair of quarterback recruits, including local standout Alex Hill from Stoney Creek’s Cardinal Newman. The Marauder missed out, however, on local standout quarterback Will Finch, who chose the Mustangs after a successful high school career at Burlington’s Nelson High School.
Traditionally, recruits are forced to choose between playing time on the field and program prestige, which is not the case at Mac.
“All six years that I have been here, we have had at least 15 or more true freshman dress and play every single year, this year was no exception with players like [Linebackers] Aram Eisho, Nick Shortill and [Running Back] Chris Pezzetta starting and playing every down,” offered Ptaszek.
Looking to continue with his tradition of developing talent through experience Ptaszek is sticking to his faith in youth.
“McMaster’s philosophy has always been if talent is equal, the young man who is going to be here the longest is going to get the majority reps. We are hoping to bring in a talented group where 15 or more can dress and contribute again. I’d suspect well have some that are pushing to start right away,” he added.
In most cases, schools are looking to improve on their results from last season. For the Marauders, sticking to their philosophy of emphasis on youth seems to be the most effective strategy, as it paid off in 2011 eclipsing the pinnacle of CIS football in 2011.
For Ptaszek and his staff, rounding up recruits for next season’s squad lends itself to the old adage “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.”