Combine Preview: The Trenches (Offensive and Defensive Lineman)

Football games are fought and won in the trenches, and in the CFL, it just so happens that such crucial positions on the offensive and defensive lines are commonly filled by Canadians.

As the CFL ascends in Toronto for the national scouting combine, no position group will receive more attention than the offensive lineman. Of course, Canadian offensive lineman are the lifeblood of the CFL draft, and this year’s class is very talented.

Conversely, it’s a weak year for defensive lineman. The consensus top-two, Manitoba’s David Onyemata and Virginia’s Trent Corney, will not be in attendance at the scouting combine. When the pads are put on and the one-on-ones begin on Sunday, don’t be surprised to see the 2016 class of offensive lineman walk all over these defensive lineman.

The following is brief run-down of each offensive and defensive lineman that’ll be in attendance at the CFL combine, with some questions about each player that could receive some answers over the weekend.

Offensive Lineman:

Missing: RG Dillon Guy, Buffalo (Injured)

1. G Charles Vaillancourt, Laval (6’4″, 325-lbs)

Vaillancourt is likely the most pro-ready offensive lineman at the combine. He doesn’t need to do anything special over the weekend – his tape speaks for itself – but show up in shape and compete with a nasty edge. With four years of full-time starting experience on one of the greatest offensive lines in CIS history, Vaillancourt, a four-time All-Canadian, is firmly entrenched as a top-3 pick in the draft.

2. OT Josiah St. John, Oklahoma (6’6″, 308-lbs)

I really like the decision of this NCAA athlete to attend the CFL combine, as a strong performance in the one-on-one sessions as a right tackle would even further increase St. John’s draft stock. Despite five years at Oklahoma, St. John never established himself as a starter, only playing in four games in 2015. Canadian offensive tackles, meanwhile, are extremely valuable with how rare they are to find. St. John, who could still be a top-5 pick if team’s still view him as a guard after the combine, is the lone legitimate tackle prospect in the draft, but after a shaky senior season, still has much to prove.

3. G Phillippe Gagnon, Laval (6’4″, 311-lbs)

Gagnon, a two-time, second-team All-Canadian at right guard for Laval, is currently projected as a top-five pick, but it’s not guaranteed. Used often as a puller and in the screen game, Gagnon is viewed as a smart, athletic player. His stock will likely be decided in the interview room, however, with little questions remaining on his skill level.

4. G Sean Jamieson, Western (6’7″, 315-lbs)

Jamieson has CFL size and the accolades – he’s a two-time, first-team All-Canadian – to be a late first, early second round pick. He has a natural knee-bend, hits with power and sure can move around really well for a big dude. He’s also very consistent and is more pro-ready than most lineman coming out of University.

5. RT/G Jason Lauzon-Seguin, Laval (6’4″, 295-lbs)

Lauzon-Seguin, admittedly, is a guy who I haven’t watched closely. 2015 was his first year as a starter, which is concerning, but he clearly didn’t disappoint, earning first-team, All-Canadian honors. I don’t view him as a tackle prospect.

6. G Zachary Intzandt, McMaster (6’5″, 300-lbs)

Despite only playing one year on the offensive side of the football, Intzandt has a lot of upside. He’s a quick, athletic player who, according to the into in his highlight package, runs a 5.17 40-yard dash. Intzandt is a surprisingly well-rounded prospect, as he’s adequate as a man or zone scheme run-blocker, a 30 or 50 pass-blocker, and as a puller. He just needs to be more consistent, which could come with more experience as an offensive lineman.

7. C Michael Couture, SFU (6’4″, 276-lbs)

Right away, what sticks out with Couture is his size – or lack thereof. 276 pounds is simply too light to play in the CFL, particularly at center. If he can bulk up without losing his athleticism, Couture could become a blue-chip prospect, as he clearly already has the depth of knowledge and the technique to be a center in the professional ranks. But that’s a very, very hard thing to ask.

8. RT/G Kadeem Adams, Western (6’4″, 290-lbs)

As shown by the opening play in his highlight reel, Adams has some wheels for an offensive lineman. He’s not an offensive tackle in the CFL, but with some development, has a future as an interior guy.

9. RT/G Jamal Campbell, York (6’7″, 300-lbs)

Campbell is solid against speed-rushers on tape, displaying excellent kick steps off the line and abilities to use leverage to his advantage, but I want to see him be effective against the power rushers at the combine, proving to teams he can convert to guard to play in the CFL. Campbell, who didn’t face the best competition at York, is a mauler in the run-game, but that doesn’t mean he can be powerful going backwards in pass protection like a guard needs to be.

10. LT/G Roman Grozman, Concordia (6’4″, 310-lbs)

Grozman’s tape from Concordia is rather underwhelming and doesn’t paint a clear picture of his strengths and weaknesses. It is, however, easy to tell that while he doesn’t have the quickness to play tackle in the CFL, he’s very effective once engaged with defensive lineman with raw strength. Grozman is still, overall, a raw prospect.

Defensive Lineman: 

Missing: NT David Onyemata, Manitoba (declined), DE Trent Corney, Virginia (declined)

1. DE/DT Denzel Philip, Eastern New Mexico (6’1″, 250-lbs)

Too small to play 3-tech defensive tackle and not athletic enough to play defensive end, Philip is a tweener – even by CFL standards. Philip is comparable to Maxx Forde, a BC Lions draft pick out of Idaho, who fell all the way to the seventh round in last year’s draft for the same reasons. Philip will need to arrive at the combine with added weight or will otherwise need to test and compete very well as an edge-rusher.

2. DE Michael Kashak, McMaster (6’1″, 245-lbs)

Kashak lacks an element of speed-rushing, but he’s surprisingly shifty (not a stiff athlete) and is very impressive against the run, covering a lot of ground on the edge. The OUA’s leader in sacks with 8.5, Kashak ran an impressive 4.88 40-yard dash at the Toronto regional combine.

3. NT Quinn Horton, SFU (6’4″, 313-lbs)

Horton, who reminds me a lot of former Laval NT Brandon Tennant, Saskatchewan’s 2015 seventh round pick, will have pressure on him to perform at the CFL combine. Like Tennant, his draft stock is wildly hard to predict. He needs to show up in shape and would benefit from shedding a few pounds to move a little better. Horton has great hands and can use a bull-rush, but doesn’t always put it together at the same time. He did, however, consistently draw double teams and opened up lanes for his linebackers.

4. DE Boyd Richardson, UBC (6’3″, n/a)

I can’t explain his lack of overall production at UBC, managing to record only a pair of sacks in 2015, but he looks really solid on film. Richardson, who’s weight is not disclosed but looks well built, is quick out of his stance and has a nice swim-move. He can rush with speed and is effective on stunts – evidently Richardson is naturally athletic.

5. DT Tarique Anderson, Delaware State (6’5″, 270-lbs)

As a 3-tech defensive tackle who’s good at six-foot-five, but only 270-lbs, Anderson needs to bulk up to play in the CFL. He naturally has a good burst out of his stance and can move around decently, but really struggles with his hands, allowing lineman to firmly engage and put him in disadvantageous positions. He’s another guy that could really help himself if he tests well.

6. NT Donnie Egerter, Guelph (6’3″, 295-lbs)

Egerter has natural strength and is decent with his hands. His feet leave much to be desired, but the motor is there. The biggest concern with me is his explosion off the line, which could hurt him in run-blocking one-on-ones. Like the next player, his ability to push the pocket wasn’t always there.

7. NT Rupert Butcher, Western (6’5″, 296-lbs)

Butcher has ideal size to play nose tackle, but perhaps not the athleticism. He uses his hands well on rushes and gets real low for a player who’s 6-foot-5, but kind of underwhelms after that. He certainly doesn’t get moved backwards, but also doesn’t push the pocket much on pass-rushes.

8. DE John Biewald, Western (6’4″, 225-lbs)

Biewald, who was one of four Western players to advance from the Toronto regional combine, had a productive senior year, recording 23.5 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. At 225-pounds, Biewald is vastly undersized and didn’t necessarily display fantastic explosion with his testing numbers.

Photo by Stephane Gaudreau (I DO NOT OWN THIS PHOTO)
Photo by Stephane Gaudreau (I DO NOT OWN THIS PHOTO)

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