Team counting on QB’s maturity
A dizzying, topsy-turvy off-season settled this month into old routine: Two-a-day training camp sessions, tackling drills and sprints.
University of Saskatchewan Huskies’ quarterback Kyle Siemens watched from his own little corner as the off-season progressed. He saw Brian Towriss leave after 33 seasons as the Huskies’ football head coach, to be replaced by Scott Flory, who then overhauled the team’s coaching staff.
In mid-August, players, coaches and staffers gathered to see how things looked.
“That off-season was definitely a change from other off-seasons,” Siemens said this week prior to a Huskies workout at Griffiths Stadium.
“It took a while to figure things out and get into the position we’re now. It’s nice to be done with the off-season — especially this off-season — because it seemed a little longer than normal. But now ... we’re just ready for the season to start.”
The Huskies, who lost 22-10 to McMaster on the road last Friday, formally open their Canada West season Friday in Manitoba against the host Bisons.
Siemens said “a mutual trust” has already been built between the players and coaches. For his part, he’s working with a new offensive co-ordinator in former CFL quarterback Marcus Crandell, and with a new quarterbacks/receivers coach in Jeremy Long.
“This program hasn’t seen that transition in quite a while,” said Siemens, whose Huskies placed third in the conference with a 5-3 record last season before dropping a first-round playoff game to Calgary.
“It’s new for us. But growing up, you go through coaching changes. It’s about working with the coach to find out what works and what doesn’t. Coach Crandell has brought a ton of knowledge, and I’m excited to continue that.”
The Huskies have dubbed Siemens their starting quarterback heading into 2017, with highly-touted Mason Nyhus the backup. Last season, Siemens completed 166 of 278 passes for 2,091 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“Kyle is what we thought he was going to be, and then some,” said Flory, who ran the Huskies offence before taking the top job.
“He has progressed, he’s matured. His level of understanding of the offence is incredibly high, and it’s where he should be as the quarterback. He’s essentially another coach in there for us. He’s got to know what everybody’s doing, and he does.”
Siemens said he appreciates the confidence placed in him. But he’s also aware of Nyhus, and the idea that a depth chart can be flipped.
On Friday at McMaster, both quarterbacks played two quarters. Siemens hit 11 of 19 passes for 113 yards and an interception, while Nyhus completed 12 of 25 for 143 yards and three interceptions.
Their primary target was freshman David Solie, who caught a game-high eight passes for 96 yards.
“When someone puts their confidence in you, it boosts your own confidence,” Siemens said. “It doesn’t take away from the fact that Mason Nyhus is a very good quarterback, and that he’s right behind me. It doesn’t change that. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I appreciate Mason a lot. I know he’s going to push me. Because of that, we’re both going to be a lot better.
“It’s totally a competition. Whether someone said it is or isn’t, you’re always trying to get better, and people are always going for your job.”
Flory, who spent 15 years as an offensive lineman with the Montreal Alouettes, concurs with Siemens’ take.
“Kyle’s our starting quarterback, but there’s forever competition, every day,” Flory said. “I don’t want any of our guys to ever sleep on anything, because the second you think you’ve got it made in the shade, that’s when you get nipped. We compete here on a daily basis.”
That competition shifts into high gear on Friday, when the Huskies — ranked fifth of six teams by a preseason coaches poll released this week — take on the University of Manitoba, who are ranked fourth by coaches.
In other Canada West openingweekend contests, the University of Alberta hosts the University of Calgary and University of Regina hosts the University of British Columbia.
Saskatchewan’s home opener is slated for Sept. 8 against the Alberta Golden Bears.
Quarterback Kyle Siemens tosses a pass during practice on Wednesday at Griffiths Stadium. Siemens connected on 11 of 19 passes for 113 yards and an interception in Friday’s 22-10 loss to McMaster.