HUSKIES FOOT­BALL

Team count­ing on QB’s ma­tu­rity

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - KEVIN MITCHELL kemitchell@post­media.com

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.

KAYLE NEIS

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.

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