2021 NCAA season nearing end; a look in at Canadians making plays south of the border

For most NCAA programs there are just one or two games remaining on their 2021 schedule. The majority of teams that were bound to play in bowl games for both December and January have already secured their spot in one, NFL eligible players have helped or hurt their draft stock over the last 11 weeks and all eyes are on the College Football Playoff which will kickoff on New Years Eve. This year, there are some Canadians in the hunt to play in the College Football Playoff and in bowl games, and a number of them have made big impacts on their teams to be in that position.

Leading the pack of Canadians would be Alabama receiver John Metchie. Metchie is a junior at the University of Alabama and has been making plays at the program since he got there as a true freshman in 2019. Last season he filled big shoes when now-Miami Dolphins receiver Jaylen Waddle went down with an injury, he caught 55 passes for 916 yards and 6 touchdowns as a sophomore, with DeVonta Smith in the offence, so as he moved into the 2021 season, there were a lot of eyes on him to repeat what he did in 2020. So far, through 10 games this season Metchie has caught 67 passes for 722 yards and 6 touchdowns. His role in the Crimson Tide offence has expanded and has been a main target for quarterback Bryce Young, but has still managed to average 10.8 yards per catch.

Staying at the wide receiver position, the NCAA is packed with talented Canadian pass catchers. Hawaii’s 6-foot-6 Canadian receiver Nick Mardner has 788 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 39 receptions this season, averaging 20.2 yards per reception over 11 games thus far. Jared Wayne from Pittsburgh then comes third in receiving yards as a Canadian with 566 yards and 4 scores on 37 grabs in his 9 games. The Peterborough-native has been making plays over the last couple of seasons with the Panthers since signing from Clearwater Academy International in Florida, while Windsor brothers Theo and Dominic Johnson also make plays in the NCAA, Dominic catching 29 passes for 404 yards and 2 touchdowns for Buffalo this season and Theo catching 17 for 204 and a score with Penn State. There is also Damien Alford, a Montreal-native at Syracuse who has served as a 6-foot-6 deep threat and speed receiver for the Orangemen, averaging 20.4 yards per reception, including a 73 yard touchdown and a game winning 45 yard score over Virginia Tech. Samuel Emilus at Louisiana Tech has caught 17 passes for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns in his 6 games this season as well, averaging 15.1 yards per ball caught.

In the run game, Canadian running back Chase Brown, a London, Ontario-native for Illinois leads the group with 851 yards and 4 scores on the ground as well as 123 yards through the air. Brown has two games over 200 yards rushing this season and averages 121.7 yards of offence through the 8 games he’s played. There is then Ottawa-native Fabrice Mukendi in his freshman season at Bryant University, running for 571 yards and 7 touchdowns on 99 carries in his first 10 games of his collegiate career. He averages 60 yards of offence per game and 5.6 yards per touch this season. Toronto’s Daniel Adeboboye is also at Bryant University where he’s taken the other half of Mukendi’s carries, running the ball 107 times for 449 yards while adding 142 yards through the air and 8 touchdowns on the offensive side of the football.

Montreal-native and Clearwater Academy International alum Ludovic Choquette has also made his mark this season at the division one level as a dual threat running back. Choquette has 125 yards and 2 scores on the ground this season while also serving as a receiving back for Western Illinois University, catching 42 passes for 369 yards and 5 touchdowns. He averages 6 yards per touch over the 10 games he’s played this season.

Then, through the air at the quarterback position, there are a couple of young Canadians that have made plays already this season and are good to watch for moving into the future. Kurtis Rourke, brother of CFL quarterback Nathan Rourke of the B.C Lions has completed 159 passes at Ohio University for 1,714 yards with a 11:4 touchdown to interception ratio. He has also added 252 rushing yards and 3 scores on the ground to his totals, while Quincy Vaughn makes his impact of his own on the ground and as a dual threat quarterback with the North Dakota University. Vaughn, a Hamilton, Ontario-native has made the most of his sophomore campaign, throwing for 70 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air while accumulating 126 rushing yards and even scoring a receiving touchdown on a 15 yard touchdown catch. There has also been both Mike Beaudry of Idaho and UCONN’s Jack Zergiotis who have started games this season, but Rourke and Vaughn may be the players to watch as they move forward with their division one football careers.

On the defensive side of the ball, it has been a big year for Canadians, and Canadians in their NFL Draft year too. Starting on the defensive line, draft pass rusher Daniel Joseph has made quite the impact with NC State this season, having made 32 tackles, 3 sacks and forcing a fumble. Mohamed Diallo has also had quite the season, being a part of 4 sacks and making 30 tackles at the University of Arizona, where he transferred to during the off-season. 6-foot-7 edge rusher Tavius Robinson has also made his mark on the Ole Miss defence this season as he is draft eligible, making 24 sacks and now has 3 straight games with a sack, looking to close the season out on a high note. Ottawa-native Samuel Obiang is also eligible for the 2022 NFL Draft and with Texas State this season he has made 16 tackles, 2 sacks and forced one fumble. Other Ottawa-native, Luiji Vilain, in what looks to be his final year at the University level, after being drafted by the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts and transferring to Wake Forest as a graduate student Vilain has been looking to get the attention of NFL scouts and he should have done so this season. Over 9 games this season he has made 24 tackles off the edge, been a part of 6 sacks, forced and recovered a fumble and has one pass deflection to his name.

Other Canadians Akeem Mesidor and Isaiah Bagnah who will both likely return to the NCAA for 2022 have had big seasons of their own. Bagnah has 32 tackles, 6 sacks and a forced fumble for Boise State and Mesidor has 30 tackles and 4 sacks with West Virginia as a sophomore, after having made 5 sacks as a freshman.

Also on the edge quite a bit, but spending the majority of his time at linebacker, Penn State’s Jesse Luketa, an Ottawa-native who just accepted his invite to the 2022 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama on Monday has had a big season leading into the 2022 NFL Draft. In 9 games thus far he has made 47 tackles, a sack and has a 16 yard interception return for a touchdown for the Nittany Lions. As a Dick Butkus Award watchlist player and being on the roster for the 2022 Senior Bowl, Luketa is a player being watched by a number of NFL scouts and should be watched by fans from Canada as well.

On the watch list to potentially play at the NFL stage next season as well is defensive backs Deane Leonard, Alonzo Addae, Enock Makonzo, and Sydney Brown. Leonard in 8 games with Ole Miss has made 37 tackles and broke up 4 passes this season, Sydney Brown of Illinois has 58 tackles, a sack, 2 forced fumbles and 3 pass deflections to his name over 9 games this season, Makonzo has 48 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery and a pass deflection for Coastal Carolina in 10 games thus far and Alonzo Addae with West Virginia has made 59 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 3 pass deflections in 9 games.

Jonathan Sutherland and Jett Elad are also eligible for the draft, Sutherland with 15 tackles and a pass breakup with Penn State and Elad with 30 tackles and 3 pass deflections for Ohio in just 6 games.

Also making an impact this season south of the border has been Syracuse linebacker, defensive back hybrid Geoff Cantin-Arku, having made 44 tackles and 2 sacks for the Orangemen in his 10 games played.

To sum it up, there are a number of Canadians making their mark in the NCAA this season. It is something that the country has seen develop over recent years and to be able to see this many ball out on Saturdays is good to see, as it is just a matter of time before they join Canadian stars like Chase Claypool, Neville Gallimore, Joshua Palmer, Chuba Hubbard, Benjamin St Juste and Jevon Holland on Sundays in the NFL.

Continue to watch for the Canadians in the NCAA as the season nears an end, and be on the lookout for these names in April for the 2022 NFL Draft.

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