Sump Did It; West Virginia punter Tyler Sumpter is making a name for himself beyond the football field

In 2021, during his last year of NCAA eligibility Tyler Sumpter punted for West Virginia University 52 times, including one that went 72 yards, averaging 43.5 yards per punt. He was looked at to be one of the best punters in the Big 12, but punting isn’t all he was known for during the 2021 season with the Mountaineers. While placing his punts inside the 10 yard line consistently for the Mountaineers, Sumpter was also editing and producing some of the best videos on social media for NCAA student athletes.

The first look that Mountaineers fans got at Sumpter and his video skills was when he announced his commitment to WVU in May of 2020. He and his dad filmed a one of a kind commitment video as he transferred out of Troy University. It featured himself, back home in Birmingham, Alabama kayaking his way to Morgantown, West Virginia, and although this may have been the first time that Mountaineers fans and the NCAA got a look at Sumpter’s creativity, it wasn’t the first video he made. In fact, he was making videos long before he was playing football. 

“I grew up home schooled so I had a lot of free time to explore my creative interests.” Sumpter told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic in an interview, “When I was 7 my dad got into filming. He bought a bunch of camera equipment, and we even turned a tiny room in our house into an editing suite where we had a few monitors and everything we needed to edit videos. With all of these things at my disposal, as a kid I taught myself how to do almost everything it takes to make a movie. Me and my little brothers actually were making small movies. We were making ‘Star Wars 3.2’ and stuff like that. It was so corny, but we were making these whole 10 minute movies. Tried to make everything look so real, it’s really cool looking back at it.” Putting together short films and exploring the film industry at a young age, it seemed as if Tyler Sumpter would be a name that would resonate in the film industry. 

It continued to look like that, however with some success on the soccer fields, doors began to open for Sumpter in the sports world at 5 years old when he started to play soccer. “I loved soccer.” he said, “I didn’t always look like a soccer player, but I was always one of the best on the teams I played on. I always had the biggest leg on the team, so my teammates and people called me ‘Big T’ and I remember when we played one of the competitive teams I actually broke a guy’s arm with a kick.” While playing soccer and making an impact doing so, Tyler Sumpter the creative mind was still at work. “My dad was one of my soccer coaches so whenever we played he always got people to film the games with his camera so that we would have video of our games and then I’d go and make highlight tapes for my teammates and then do recaps for tournaments and the season.” he added, “It was actually pretty smart because at the end of the year we would play the videos and put them on DVD for the moms to buy for like $25. I probably made a couple hundred bucks from that.”

Being one of the bigger kids on his soccer teams, and having the strongest leg in the area, Tyler Sumpter’s name got to the football community in the Birmingham, Alabama region. As he got ready to go to public school for the first time for middle school, after being homeschooled for elementary school he was asked to play football for the school. At first he was hesitant because of his commitment to soccer, but it didn’t take long for him to hit the football field. “I was asked by the coach to play football, he was a family friend so he was over for dinner… I ended up going to the special teams practice the next day and the kicker they had at the time had the second strongest leg on my soccer team (Sumpter had the strongest), and I ended up taking the kid’s spot as the kicker on the first day.” Sumpter went on to kick for Springville High School, and eventually found himself on both the offensive and defensive line as well. He was a busy dual sport athlete, playing both soccer and football, so he didn’t have a lot of time to spend on his filming, but with people around him bringing up the chances of Tyler Sumpter being an NFL kicker one day, it didn’t look like he would need to film. “When I started to play football, my typical day would go: school, football practice, and then soccer. I ended up quitting soccer when I played for our varsity team as a freshman. After going to some camps and training more I was kicking at a legit division one level in the 10th grade.” Sumpter remembers a buzz starting around his name that year. As a sophomore, schools like Auburn began to take a look at him and invite him to camps, but his recruiting process really took off when he made the move from Springville High School to Spain Park High School. 

At Spain Park, Sumpter left quite the legacy. For a new guy on the block, without much expectations, he was very impressive, but he did run into some adversity in his junior year. In a thrilling homecoming game at Spain Park High School in 2014, the Spain Park Jaguars fell to the Hewitt-Trussville Huskies 64-63 in a fourth overtime. The game ended with a missed extra point by Sumpter. He reflected on the game, “our kicker was hurt for that game so I was doing all three  (punting, kickoffs, place kicking) and I remember I was having a pretty good game but the missed extra point at the end of the game lost the game in quadruple overtime for us.” Sumpter continued, “The school that we played was close to the school I used to go to so I knew a lot of the guys on the team and that went to that school so after the game they started calling me Winnie The Pooh and I was a meme.” From that point on, Sumpter was unstoppable as a kicker and a punter. He finished his junior year off strong, starting to gain interest from more universities to take football into the post-secondary level, eventually being offered a scholarship by Troy University just prior to his senior season. As a senior Sumpter was named first team Super All-State as a punter in Alabama, first team Birmingham All-Metro as a kicker and also got the nod as the 13th ranked punter in the country as well as the 35th ranked player in all of Alabama. 

Once his high school football career came to an end, it was time for a big decision to be made by Tyler Sumpter. With plenty of interest around the country, any team in the NCAA would have loved to have him on their team to punt and/or kick, but with Troy University being the only school to offer him a scholarship, it was easy for Sumpter to sign with the Trojans and play for head coach Neal Brown. 

He would go on to redshirt as a freshman in 2016, then play a total of 38 games over the next three years with the Troy Trojans. In those 38 games he punted 156 times for a total 6,579 yards, averaging 42.2 yards per punt and made 39 of 51 field goal attempts as well as each of the 125 extra points he attempted. As a sophomore in 2018 he was named all-conference in the Sun Belt Conference as a place kicker and a punter. In 2019 as a junior he was named all-conference once again as a punter for Troy. After graduating from Troy with a bachelor’s degree in K-6 elementary education, Sumpter entered the transfer portal. The year prior, there was a coaching change at Troy, where they went from Neal Brown to Chip Lindsey, so things were a bit different with the Trojans than it was when Sumpter started there. On May 31st 2020 he released his commitment video, announcing that he would be following Neal Brown to West Virginia University and will punt for the Mountaineers. A main reason as to why he chose West Virginia though, was not because of the football team itself. It was the opportunity he may have to work with the video team at West Virginia and get back into filming. 

Sumpter told JZ Media, “In 2019 I bought a Canon G7X to vlog. I got into filming again and got new softwares to edit. I graduated from Troy as one of the best punters and kickers in the country and originally I was going to LA Tech but I remember Neal Brown telling me, ‘I know you don’t want to be a teacher in Louisiana.’ He brought up the idea that I could do some video stuff with the team at WVU and I grew up a West Virginia fan so it only made sense to go there.” 

There wasn’t any video action for Sumpter in year one. He was a new guy on the block and wanted to make a good impression on the field. During the shortened COVID year with West Virginia he punted the ball 37 times for 1,499 yards, averaging 40.5 yards per punt (4th in BIG 12), connected on 3 of 4 field goal attempts and was 1 for 1 for extra points. The highlight of his season came against Kansas where he booted a 37 yard punt down to the one yard line. His longest punt of the season was 56 yards. 

 “I finished my first season there, and when I was back home for Christmas I was like, ‘why am I not filming?’ because it was such a big part of my childhood, doing all this stuff with cameras and editing. So I ended up getting everything I needed to get back into it and when I got back to Morgantown during the off-season I would go to these training sessions that our offence would put on and it was just for experience and getting adjusted to it all.” Sumpter said, “All of the guys loved the work that I was doing, and I ended up doing this stuff all off-season. Did some photoshoots with teammates and their girlfriends and stuff like that too. I was finally getting into everything again.”

On the football field, his last year of eligibility was a good one. He averaged 43.5 yards per punt and had a long of 72 yards but he also made the most of it off of the football field as a videographer and content creator, making up for lost times.

“One of the guys I know on the basketball team, Gabe (Osabuohien) told me about a rapper, Dusty Locane’s concert in Morgantown. I ended up going and filmed behind the scenes, on stage and around him. After the concert I was editing until like 3:00 in the morning, and this was during game week, just before the first game of the season in Maryland so I had practice the next day and meetings and stuff. The best part was being at practice, and the kickers knew I was filming the night before, and I was still launching the ball across the field. They were like, ‘how is he doing this?’ But that is the reality of my season, I was either filming or at football. There was pretty much no inbetween, unless I was filming and editing at football which I ended up doing too.” About midway through the 2021 season, Sumpter started to release his highlight tapes of himself and his teammates at West Virginia and people across the nation started to take notice of the skills he had. “During the season I remember editing Akheem (Mesidor)’s highlight tape in the weight room,” Sumpter said, “it was cool because I was editing, and then about 10 minutes after I started and I was working there was about 3 or 4 guys around me watching and then by the end of the highlight it was like 20 some guys I was showing it to. The guys really like the videos and if my teammates like them, who are going to be in the NFL, NFL players will like them too. I know I’m going to be huge very soon because everything I do is cool. It has my little pizzazz on it.”  

The majority of West Virginia players that have a highlight tape from the 2021 season had their highlight tape made by West Virginia punter Tyler Sumpter. Some of the best ones you may have seen so far, Sam James’ highlight, Sean Ryan’s highlight, Bryce Ford-Wheaton’s highlight, Kaden Prather’s highlight- Sump did it. Overall, Sumpter’s highlight tapes that he makes for his teammates and the ones he will make for athletes across the world are one of a kind. They have his “pizzazz” on it which separates it from highlight tapes made by other creators. As a football player himself, he has a different point of view when making the videos of course, which may have a part in it, but it really comes down to his editing style. Every single highlight tape he has made is a short movie. It gets your attention and it keeps your attention. It tells a story, and that is something he wants to do with the videos he creates. In the interview with Jordan Zlomislic he explained his style and touched on the goals he has for the future of his career as a content creator. “The videos I’ve made are highlight videos.” he said, “They are supposed to show highlights. The best plays. They are supposed to attract you to the highlights of the player’s season, and when I hear that people watch these 40 second videos 10 times in a row because it caught their attention and stuff that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. What I’m also trying to do a bit now is mix these highlight tapes into documentaries. Where I make videos that have the highlight tape style that I’ve been using but also tell a story in the video.” The first video that will follow that description may just be a video of Tyler Sumpter, Sump Did It himself. “I’m making my own mini documentary right now.” he announced, “I’ll be making the best punter highlight tape that the world has ever seen while telling my story.”

Tyler Sumpter will be entering the 2022 NFL Draft this April. His collegiate football career will officially come to an end at West Virginia’s pro day, and even if he doesn’t make it into the NFL or another professional league, there’s no doubting that Tyler Sumpter’s name will be a big one very soon. He is on the right track to be one of the best videographers and video editors in sports and music. Sumpter has been in love with making videos since he was 7 years old, making short movies with his dad’s Panasonic AG-DVX100 Professional Camcorder. With a good vision behind “Sump did it” as well, which highlights the idea of telling athletes’ stories, hopefully soon in podcast form as well, people should keep all eyes and ears on his future, and some work he may put out. 

“Its never been done before,” USports football player Stephane Tshishimbi goes into detail about being more than an athlete, “I want to change the narrative”

For the longest time, football, and all sports have been seen as a form of entertainment. People sit down with a snack and watch the games. Either on television or in person. There’s a reason why they watch it, and why it is looked at to be entertainment. It’s exciting. Football is a very fast paced sport, which if two good teams are playing each other anything can happen at any point in the game. It has gotten to a point in time where the game of football is a billion dollar industry and there are hundreds of opportunities for the athletes in the industry. The only thing though, a lot of this money, and the majority of these opportunities only go out to the football players in the United States. There is this narrative going around in the world today that only athletes in the U.S are marketable and are looked at to be “elite” athletes, but that narrative is slowly changing as athletes in Canada, and other countries take over.

One athlete that is taking over from all aspects of life is Stephane Tshishimbi. Tshishimbi, originally from Ottawa, the nation’s capital, plays for linebacker for the University of British Columbia’s football team. He got recruited by coach Blake Nill and the UBC Thunderbirds in 2020 after playing his senior year of high school in 2019 at Clearwater Academy International in Florida, and Nill is happy to have him on his team. As a rookie, Tshishimbi made 15 tackles and a tackle for loss in 6 games played. Down the stretch of the season he made 12 tackles over three games against Regina, Manitoba and Calgary, showing his potential for the future with the Thunderbirds, but his bright future is not limited to just football.

Stephane Tshishimbi is a brand, and a growing brand. He is living proof that Canadian athletes are parallel with American athletes, on and off the field. Tshishimbi has played across the border and held his own at Clearwater Academy International under head coach Jesse Chinchar, he and a number of his former teammates have had success in the U.S.A for football, therefore it’s been known that Canadians can play with the Americans, but it’s been the media and marketing around it that has been behind. As mentioned previously, Canadian athletes haven’t been looked at to be marketable, like American athletes have been. Players state side have made millions of dollars on their name, image and likenesses for years, something that Tshishimbi looks to do as well, but in Canada. “Its never been done before,” he told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “in Canada, there hasn’t been a lot athletes that make their mark outside of their sports. There’s a narrative that we are only athletes and can’t really do much else, but I want to change the narrative.”

Outside of being a stud on the football field at all levels, from his time in Ottawa with the Myers Riders, to his time in Florida with Clearwater Academy and now with the University of British Columbia, Stephane Tshishimbi has also made a name for himself in the music industry as well as the modelling and film industry. Going by TGE Stephy, Tshishimbi has released and featured on a number of hits, including “Pain” and “4X4”, he implies, “Music has always been with me, but not always seriously. I really got into it when I was in Florida where I was around a lot of artistic minds that I could relate more to. Johari (McGregor/ TGE Truth) introduced me to “The Grey Era” which I am now a part of and we are all on to doing big things. I’m very excited about it all,” he continued, “music is a way I can express myself.” As for modelling and acting, Tshishimbi has also done numerous photoshoots, and appeared on an Amazon Prime Original, “The Reacher” as a background actor. He said, “being on set with big time actors and learning from experienced producers and actors was pretty huge for me.”

In the next couple of years, starting now, he looks to expand his name as an artist and an actor while still playing football, showing that it is not only possible to do both, but succeed doing both as well. On Friday, a documentary will be released by Tshishimbi and Apex Visual Productions to tell the life story of Stephane Tshishimbi the football player, and the brand. He tells Jordan Zlomislic, “The documentary is about my life. It tells my football story. How I got into it, my football in Ottawa, my time in Florida and being with UBC, but it also shows my life off of the field. It goes into detail about my goals and vision as a brand.”

“Its to show people that you don’t have to be confined to what people think about you. Some people think that I’m just a football player, or even some people think I only do music and are surprised about me playing football, but I do everything. I know that I can do anything that I want under my name, and really anyone can do this.”

Tshishimbi has the goal of one day being a professional athlete, whether that be in the CFL or NFL, a mainstream artist and a star actor in large roles of movies and television series. He’s already kick started everything to get their very soon, and wants to see more athletes like himself do more to be looked at as brands in Canada, like you can see in the states.

He says in a form of advice for young athletes in similar situations as himself, “Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.”

The Stephane Tshishimbi documentary, “The Next Chapter” can be seen on Apex Visual Productions’ website starting Friday January 14th at 8:00 PM EDT.

https://www.apexvisualproduction.ca/projects

Will Arndt, Paul Charbonneau join Ottawa Redblacks coaching staff for 2022 CFL season

On Thursday the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks announced their 2022 coaching staff. Staying on the staff from the 2021 CFL season is head coach Paul LaPolice, defensive coordinator Mike Benevides, special teams coordinator Bob Dyce, receivers coach Alex Suber, defensive backs coach Greg Knox, defensive line coach Carey Bailey and linebackers coach Patrick Bourgon. New to the staff is quarterbacks coach Will Arndt and offensive line coach Paul Charbonneau, but they are not new to Ottawa.

Arndt played for the Ottawa Redblacks as a quarterback in 2017, 2018 and 2019. He started in some games and finished his time as a Redblack with 940 passing yards, and three touchdowns. After leaving Ottawa, he spent training camp with the B.C Lions in 2021 prior to serving as an offensive assistant coach with the Edmonton Elks under Jaime Elizondo. He will take over for Steve Walsh as the Redblacks quarterbacks coach in 2022.

Also familiar with the city of Ottawa is Paul Charbonneau who is taking Bob Wylie’s position as the Redblacks’ offensive line coach. Charbonneau is actually originally from Ottawa, having grown up in Orleans. He has previously spent time with the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL in 2016 and 2017 but also has great experience at the collegiate level with Roosevelt University, Washington University and Lindenwood University-Belleville.

Now that they have a coaching staff, it is time that the Ottawa Redblacks’ front office, led by Shawn Burke, a newly hired general manager figures out who will be coached by this coaching staff come June 2022.

There are still a number of pending free agents still unsigned by the Ottawa Redblacks, with free agency opening on February 8th and the Draft approaching as well there is a real chance that the Redblacks roster will change significantly for the 2022 CFL season as compared to 2021.

Eli Ankou, Neville Gallimore to represent the 613 in NFL Playoffs; is Ottawa becoming a football city?

NFL playoffs are here! On Saturday January 15th the 2022 Super Bowl playoffs will kickoff in Cincinnati with the Las Vegas Raiders taking on the Bengals. The 4:30 eastern game on Saturday will be one of six over the course of the weekend. We will watch the New England Patriots at the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Fransisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs and the Arizona Cardinals at the Los Angeles Rams. Sure, there could be some lopsided games in front of us next weekend, but there is expected to be six very good football games to watch as each of the 14 teams in the playoffs eye the Vince Lombardi trophy. Of the games available to watch next weekend though, two of them will feature players from the city of Ottawa.

Representing the nation’s capital in the NFL are both Eli Ankou and Neville Gallimore. Ankou will play Saturday night on the Buffalo Bills defensive line against the New England Patriots at Highmark Stadium. This will not be Ankou’s first time in the playoffs, having spent the 2017 playoff run with the Jacksonville Jaguars, defeating the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers prior to losing to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship. In 33 career games, spread across the NFL with the Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills Eli Ankou has made 43 tackles, and 3 sacks including one on Tom Brady earlier this season.

In his first NFL playoff run though, is Ottawa’s Neville Gallimore who will suit up for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday against the San Fransisco 49ers. Gallimore missed the majority of the 2021 NFL season with a dislocated elbow, however his impact on the Dallas Cowboys defence has been huge since he’s returned to the line-up. In 4 starts to close out the season he’s made 13 tackles, 2 sacks and 3 tackles for loss. He’s come a long way since he first picked up the game of football in Ottawa, and with the way the Dallas Cowboys have been playing this season, there is a very real chance that we see him represent the 613 in the Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. Really, if you wanted to watch closely in this year’s playoffs, there is a chance that both Ankou and Gallimore make it to the Super Bowl.

It may be a long shot, but it would make history, and it would put a major spotlight on the city of Ottawa. The football has grown so much in the city over the last decade-plus, and it would be a perfect way to show the entire world on the biggest stage in all of sports.

Seeing both Gallimore and Ankou in the Super Bowl would also be very inspiring, and would show all of the young athletes in Ottawa that they can achieve their goals as well. It is something that athletes have been doing from the 613 for some time now, and with there being success now by a few, it’s clear that there will only be more players in the same position as these two in the future. Maybe even the near future.

Eligible for this year’s NFL Draft are Ottawa-raised football players Jesse Luketa, Luiji Vilain, Chris Fournier, Patrice Rene, Liam Dobson and Katley Joseph. Of the list, the two that may have the biggest spotlight would be Jesse Luketa and Luiji Vilain, but that doesn’t mean the other 4 will not make it to the league as well. Luketa, coming out of Penn State will be attending the 2022 NFL Combine as well as the Reese’s Senior Bowl, exactly like Neville Gallimore did in 2020. Luiji Vilain is coming off of a 10 sack season at Wake Forest and spent the January 8th weekend in Texas at the College Gridiron Showcase.

Future years can also see Akheem Mesidor of West Virginia, Kervens Bonhomme of South Alabama, Jonathan Sutherland & Christian Veilleux of Penn State, Samuel Obiang of Texas State, Wesley Bailey & Rene Konga of Rutgers and more come out of Ottawa and make it to the NFL. The talent in the nation’s capital is only getting better, and with better coaching in the city now, compared to past years, having real football training programs, and good grassroots, it’s clear that the future is extremely bright.

Some names that have really made a big difference in the city already would be both Victor Tedondo and Jean Guillaume. Tedondo has built an empire in the city with Gridiron Academy, becoming a go to spot for football training while Guillaume has made a name for himself as a high school football coach and recruiting consultant in the city, helping athletes get to the next level. There have been a number of other coaches making waves in the city as well, like Donnie Ruiz and what he’s created at Capital City Academy, Iseah Montgiraud at Limitless Era, Eddie Brown at EB4 All-Star Performance and others. With these coaches, and programs making commitments to the athletes in the city, there has been a large growth of talent and passion for the game of football in the city of Ottawa, all starting with the grass roots.

There is a reason why both Neville Gallimore and Eli Ankou are where they are today, in the NFL playoffs. Of course, they are insanely talented athletes, but they also had good football upbringings. They had good coaching, and were placed in great opportunities at a young age. Ankou for example; training with Gridiron Academy, really set him up for success in his early teens. He may have been one of the first athletes to train with Tedondo, but the work that they put in installed a work mindset into Eli Ankou. He then continued doing everything he was taught on and off the football field, and executed it on the football field, doing so in Canada at St. Peter Catholic High School in Orleans, and then in the states at Red Lion Christian Academy in Bear, Delaware which set him up to go to UCLA, then the NFL.

With the future looking brighter than ever in the city of Ottawa for the game of football, it’s about time that the game is brought to everyone’s attention. The football community is quite big in the city, and it seems like people are starting to work together to get it to the level it deserves to be at, side by side with the football across the border, but there is still a lot more work to be done.

In 2022 to be a part of the football community in the city of Ottawa, be sure to tap into the game of football at all levels. Here in the nation’s capital we are fortunate to have football played at all levels. There is professional football with the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks, junior football with the Ottawa Sooners, University football with the Carleton Ravens and UOttawa Gee Gees, Competitive province-wide football, High School football and club football. As we continue to see names come from the city and enter the professional ranks, we also see these athletes representing Ottawa everywhere they go. Neville Gallimore represents the 613 through his brother’s company Trenchlife Apparel which he wears on a regular basis and posts about often, and Jesse Luketa has kept his social media username as “Ottawa’s Very Own” to let people know where he is from. More and more players are publicly putting on for the city while they reach new milestones in their football careers, they are proud of where they are from, and it would only help move the football community if all of Ottawa, all 1 million plus people were on board with uplifting football, and levelling up.

Be here for the level up.

Canadian offensive lineman Jacob Ruby signs with Ottawa Redblacks

When Ottawa Redblacks fans, or CFL fans in general think about this year’s off-season transactions, and moves they’d like to see made by their team, they likely think first about the players that are to become free agents on their own team. They would circle some names that they’d like to see back with them, and then look at other teams’ free agent lists, circling names that would be good fits for them, but a lot of the time, fans forget about some players that may already be available as free agents. Well, the Ottawa Redblacks did not forget.

New general manager Shawn Burke signed Canadian offensive lineman Jacob Ruby on Monday. Ruby has been out of football since being released in August by the Edmonton Elks because of fake vaccination documents he presented to the team.

Of course, it is not a good look for Ruby in that situation, however he has now been granted a second chance at playing the game he loves, now with the Ottawa Redblacks.

After signing with the Redblacks, Ruby commented “I am extremely excited and proud to be an Ottawa REDBLACK, I want to thank Shawn Burke and Coach LaPolice for making this decision an easy one. I can’t wait to get to work for RNation. Go REDBLACKS!” Prior to coming to the Nation’s Capital Ruby has been in the CFL for 6 seasons, two with Montreal and four with Edmonton. He’s played in a total 63 regular season games over the 6 seasons and is expected to play the next 36 with the Redblacks, signing a 2 year deal with Ottawa.

The Ottawa Redblacks still have yet to re-sign other Canadian offensive linemen Mark Korte and Nolan MacMillan. Korte was considered to be one of the best players across the Redblacks roster in 2021. It would be a huge loss if he were to sign elsewhere, especially after the struggles the team faced up front. Whether or not Korte and MacMillan re-sign with the Redblacks within the next couple of weeks before CFL free agency opens up will likely decide what Burke and his front office do during free agency. If they do not return to Ottawa, they are expected to sign some big names for the offensive line.

Free agency opens at 12:00 PM eastern on February 8th.

One month until free agency; what do the Redblacks need to do before February 8th?

In just one month, the CFL’s annual free agency period will open up. It will be the first time that the league’s Ottawa Redblacks will enter a free agency without their former general manager Marcel Desjardins. Outside of the 2015 CFL free agency period, in which the team signed a number of CFL stars like Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli, Ernest Jackson, Chris Williams and Sir Vincent Rogers, the Redblacks have typically been very quiet when it comes to free agency. The majority of their off-season moves have come when re-signing players and signing already available free agents coming out of university or NFL camps, but there is changes expected now that Shawn Burke has taken over as the organization’s general manager. The only questions though would be, what kind of changes will he make this off-season? And, when will changes be made?

Well, February 8th is when he and his staff, announced last week- Jeremy Snyder, Brendan Taman, Chad Hudson and Phillippe Moreau, will be able to sign any free agents across the CFL, however prior to that date there are some decisions to be made. According to CFL.ca there are still 32 players set to hit the open market in February from the Ottawa Redblacks. Among those 32 players are key contributors from the 2021 CFL season R.J Harris, Nate Behar, Kenny Stafford, Mark Korte, Nolan MacMillan, Avery Ellis, Stefan Charles, Davon Coleman, Micah Awe, Don Unamba, Antoine Pruneau, Abdul Kanneh and Randall Evans. Those names, along with some others like Anthony Coombs, Christophe Mulumba, Frank Beltre, Wesley Lewis and Timothy Flanders should all come up in discussions within the next couple of weeks in Ottawa’s front office, deciding whether or not they will return to the nation’s capital for the 2022 CFL season.

RJ Harris, photo by Jordan Zlomislic

Taking a look at what happened, and who made the biggest impacts during the 2021 CFL season it would be a no brainer to bring back at least one or two of the receivers who are to hit the market. R.J Harris, Nate Behar, and Kenny Stafford each had significant roles in the Redblacks’ offence last season, and would be very productive if brought back to Paul LaPolice’s offence in 2022. Also a key part to the offence in 2021 was Mark Korte on the offensive line. Yes the line wasn’t all that great over the course of the season, but Korte was a bright spot on it, having played every single position on it, and being a player that the team can rely on when it came to Bob Wylie’s offensive line. Nolan MacMillan, another Canadian offensive lineman is also set to become a free agent alongside Americans Tyler Catalina, Na’Ty Rodgers, Juwann Bushell Beatty, and Jamar McGloster. Shawn Burke is expected to address the offensive line situation in both free agency and the draft, but will need to see who he wants to bring back from 2021 as well. Who ever is under centre for the Ottawa Redblacks in 2022 will need time in the pocket and weapons to throw to, that is for sure.

As for the defensive side of the football, Mike Benevides’ defence was great in 2021. There were some weeks where they didn’t exceed their full potential, and may have played poorly, however when the starting unit was healthy, the defence was something that the Redblacks could lean on in 2021. The defence is what kept the Redblacks in games over the span of the 2021 CFL season. By bringing back the same crew that was in Ottawa for 2021, and bringing in some other pieces to improve it, the Redblacks, with Mike Benevides have a real shot at having the best defence in the CFL. To get there though, they must re-sign at least 3 or 4 of their big name pending free agents. Avery Ellis, Davon Coleman, Stefan Charles, Micah Awe, Don Unamba, Christophe Mulumba, Abdul Kanneh, Randall Evans and Antoine Pruneau are all set to hit the market on February 8th alongside some other Redblacks defensive stars, but R-Nation cannot see all of them leave the nation’s capital. If any of them would be listed as “must re-signs” for Burke’s staff, Davon Coleman, Avery Ellis, Micah Awe, and Abdul Kanneh would fit that description. There is plenty of talent across the CFL that will also become available on February 8th, and Burke should 100% acquire some outside talent as well, but the main focus right now should be the 32 pending free agents, starting with those named earlier.

It is clear that there is room to improve from the 2021 CFL season for the Ottawa Redblacks, and yes there are decisions to make when it comes to pending free agents coming from the Redblacks themselves and those across the league as well as the 2022 CFL Draft, but the biggest decision that Burke will make could be in house. The Ottawa Redblacks need to figure out who will be taking snaps for them in 2022. Will it be Caleb Evans? Or will it be Devlin Hodges? Or will it be someone else? Trevor Harris is a current free agent, while Jeremiah Masoli, McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Dane Evans are pending free agents across the league. Could one of them come to Ottawa for the 2022 CFL season? Maybe. It will be a decision that needs to be made soon, though, because it can impact the entire roster that is built around the quarterback. By going with one of the players under contract now, it would be a lot cheaper, and would give Burke the chance to bring in all-star talent across the board for the 2022 CFL season.

What do you think will be done, and what should be done by the Ottawa Redblacks?

Jean-Marc Edme and Pier-Yves Lavergne added to Alouettes front office from the Ottawa Redblacks

As the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks brought in their new front office, led by general manager Shawn Burke, now the second GM in franchise history, there have been a few members of the old front office that have received new opportunities outside of Ottawa.

Alongside Marcel Desjardins, who was the Redblacks’ general manager, OSEG also parted ways with both Jean-Marc Edme and Pier-Yves Lavergne. They both have since been hired by the Montreal Alouettes. Edme will serve as the Alouettes’ director of professional personnel while Pier-Yves Lavergne will be the Director of National scouting.

Both Lavergne and Edme had great careers in Ottawa, bringing in a number of great athletes for the Redblacks, and are bound to have success across the Ontario-Quebec border with the Montreal Alouettes. Lavergne, interestingly enough once suited up with the Ottawa Redblacks for a pre-season game in 2016 as a full back while still being on staff in the front office, and now at just 31 years old has an extremely bright future ahead of him. There is a great chance that he will become a general manager in the CFL sometime in his career, and that may be the case for Edme as well, with a lot of great football experience behind him at 41 years old himself.

Edme will actually be returning to the Montreal Alouettes where he spent time with prior to coming to the nation’s capital.

From Ottawa,

Congratulations and good luck to both Lavergne and Edme with the Alouettes!

Ottawa Redblacks announce front office staff for 2022 CFL season

On October 25th 2021 the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks and long time general manager Marcel Desjardins parted ways. Desjardins, who was with the Redblacks since day one in 2013 was the only general manager and the only man in charge that the franchise knew until Shawn Burke was brought in.

Burke was hired by the Redblacks just before Christmas, and although he’s yet to make any headline moves as the general manager of the Ottawa Redblacks, he has gotten himself his front office staff for the future.

Staying in Ottawa from the 2021 staff and previous years are both Jeremy Snyder and Phillippe Moreau. Snyder will serve as the team’s assistant general manager, and Moreau will be the professional/college scout. Along with them both, entering the nation’s capital with Shawn Burke will be Brendan Taman and Chad Hudson.

Brendan Taman has been working in the CFL since 1987. He’s spent time with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Montreal Alouettes, Ottawa Rough Riders, and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Taman will serve as the Redblacks’ director of professional personnel.

Chad Hudson has spent the last 13 years with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL after time spent with the Montreal Alouettes as well as the University of Regina’s football program. He’ll take on the role as director of Canadian scouting as well as football analytics.

Peter Power/CFL.ca

“We’re excited to move forward into next season with a passionate and experienced group of football minds in our front office,” said Burke in the Redblacks’ press release on Monday. “Jeremy and Philippe have been key pieces of the REDBLACKS family for several years, while Brendan and Chad will bring in a fresh outlook and decades of CFL experience to our family.”

By hiring both Taman and Hudson, the Redblacks have also announced that they’ve parted ways with Jean-Marc Edme and Pier-Yves Lavergne from their front office. The two former Redblacks’ staff members had large roles in Ottawa’s front office, Edme was known for bringing in a lot of talent, including Sherrod Baltimore and DeVonte Dedmon who are both looked at to be fan favourites in the nation’s capital. He and Lavergne will leave Ottawa after great careers in the city and a long future full of success ahead of them both.

NCAA bowl season coming to an end, looking at Canadians that shined in their games

On Friday December 17th the 2021-2022 NCAA bowl season kicked off with Coastal Carolina and Northern Illinois in the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida at Exploria Stadium. The game was just one of forty four scheduled through the National Championship on Monday January 10th. Each of the bowl games signify excellence and reward the teams on a great season, in which they have won 6 or more games.

Some of the teams that have been rewarded with a bowl game have a lot of talent on their rosters, including some Canadian talent. In the first bowl game of the NCAA’s bowl season, Coastal Carolina’s hybrid linebacker/safety Enock Makonzo, originally from Lachine, Quebec made 10 tackles and 2 tackles for loss in their 47-41 win over Northern Illinois.

Makonzo wasn’t the only Canadian to appear in a bowl game though, there were a number of others to make an appearance including West Virginia’s Canadian trio on defence. The West Virginia Mountaineers had Akheem Mesidor, Deshawn Stevens and Alonzo Addae representing Canada in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona. Addae, who was drafted in the second round of the 2021 CFL Draft by the Ottawa Redblacks made four tackles in the game while Mesidor made two of his own. West Virginia ended up losing the game to Minnesota 18-6, but it was a good way to close out the 2021 NCAA season and move on to the future for each of the three Canadians.

The Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl between the Pittsburgh Panthers and Michigan State Spartans also featured Canadian pass catcher Jared Wayne. A product of Peterborough, Ontario, Wayne caught one of Pitt’s 3 touchdowns in their loss to MSU.

On New Year’s Eve, the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl featured four Canadians, all from the nation’s capital, Ottawa, Ontario. Rutgers University had defensive back Patrice Rene, nose tackle Rene Konga and pass rusher Wesley Bailey on their sideline while Wake Forest had pass rusher Luiji Vilain on theirs. Vilain had a breakout senior campaign in 2021, recording 9 sacks on the season, leading the Deamon Deacons. He and Wake Forest came away with the win, finishing the game with a 38-10 final score. Although he didn’t record any stats in the game, and neither did both Patrice Rene and Rene Konga, Wesley Bailey did, making 3 tackles and deflecting a pass.

Also from the nation’s capital are Penn State’s Christian Veilleux, Jesse Luketa and Jonathan Sutherland who were featured alongside other Canadians Malick Meiga and Theo Johnson against Arkansas in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day. Arkansas came up on top at the end of the game, winning 24-10, but Luketa shined as he goes into the Reese’s Senior Bowl in February, making 9 tackles, including one for a loss in his final game with the Nittany Lions, Sutherland made 5 tackles from safety and Veilleux made an appearance, completing one pass for 3 yards and running for a 13 yard gain. Sutherland is to return to Penn State for 2022 and Veilleux will look to get a larger role in the offence.

Ole Miss’ Deane Leonard and Tavius Robinson featured in the All-State Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day as well. Edge rusher Tavius Robinson didn’t record any stats on the night, however Leonard was able to make 2 tackles and deflect two passes against Baylor. Baylor won the game 21-7, but it may have been the last look that NFL scouts got of both Leonard and Robinson as they both are draft eligible.

There are just two bowl games left on tap for football fans, including the national championship on Monday January 10th between Alabama and Georgia. Canadian receiver John Metchie is still out for Alabama with a torn ACL therefore there will not be any Canadians in the big game.

2021 comes to an end; what can be done for a better 2022 in Ottawa?

Featured image from Joshua O’Connor

The last three calendar years haven’t been too great for the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks, and thats on all aspects. In 2019, to kickoff the year, the Ottawa Redblacks lost star players Trevor Harris, William Powell, Diontae Spencer, Greg Ellingson, Sir Vincent Rogers, Kyries Hebert and Rico Murray to other teams. They were then forced to find replacements for each one of them and other players lost in free agency, however it wasn’t easy to do so. Their replacements started the 2019 CFL season strong, going 2-0, beating both the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders, but only won one of the next 16 games down the stretch. Ottawa went 3-15 in the 2019 CFL season, and missed the playoffs for the first time since their first season in the CFL back in 2014. It was a bad year for the Redblacks, and R-Nation was not thrilled at all.

Then move forward to 2020, it looked as if the Ottawa Redblacks finally had it all together, and were ready to get back into the hunt for a Grey Cup, having hired an experienced offensive head coach in Paul LaPolice and signing a young quarterback with a lot of potential in Nick Arbuckle. Unfortunately though, that new look that the Ottawa Redblacks brought in was never seen by the public. A global pandemic shut down the 2020 CFL season and created a lot of change. With some details in contracts having to be figured out, the Redblacks moved on from 26 year old quarterback Nick Arbuckle, and signed veteran quarterback Matt Nichols for the future. Arbuckle hadn’t even suited up in red and black for a CFL game yet, but the Redblacks were already moving on from him, and it doesn’t look like that was the right move. Nichols had a couple of good seasons with Paul LaPolice in Winnipeg, but the start to his season with the Redblacks in 2021 wasn’t anything close to those seasons he’s had in the past. He started the first four games of the season, completing 56 of 86 passes for 476 yards and threw three interceptions before being sidelined for Dominique Davis. Davis then played in three games, throwing for 674 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for a touchdown of his own prior to a hamstring injury which opened the door for young quarterbacks Caleb Evans and Devlin Hodges who may have futures in Ottawa.

2021 ended up being full of both positives and negatives for the Ottawa Redblacks, but with a 3-11 record to close out the season, and owning the second overall pick in the next draft, it looks to have had more negatives than positives. That makes up of three straight years of negativity for Ottawa Redblacks fans. A 3-15 season, a cancelled season and a 3-11 season. The goal is to flip it all around for the 2022 CFL season, to have a winning record and compete for the Grey Cup, but how will that be done?

Well, ownership has already started making changes by bringing in general manager Shawn Burke, and there has been a lot of players brought back from the 2021 season, but what still needs to be done, is bringing in a new look. The team that was in Ottawa for 2021 finished the season strong. It was filled with young talent in players like Caleb Evans, De’Lance Turner, Ryan Davis, DeVonte Dedmon, Jakub Szott, Dino Boyd, Praise Martin-Oguike, Kene Onyeka, and Brandin Dandridge that made an impact, and having those young players back in 2022 with the addition of proven veterans would be a recipe of success for the Ottawa Redblacks.

Some spots where the Redblacks can definitely improve in during the off-season for the 2022 season would be at the offensive line, receiver, and edge rusher positions. In 2021 Caleb Evans was a large bright spot for the Ottawa Redblacks. Coming in as a 23 year old, playing his first snaps of professional football, ending up winning his first start and throwing for 1,279 yards, running for 345 and scoring 8 offensive touchdowns in 7 starts. It would be a big decision, but maybe the best decision to build around him for the 2022 CFL season. Spending less money at the quarterback position would open up the opportunity to bring in better, and proven talent at the positions of need. First, Burke and his front office should think about bringing back pending free agents Mark Korte, Nolan MacMillan, Kenny Stafford, Nate Behar, R.J Harris, Avery Ellis, Micah Awe, Abdul Kanneh, Randall Evans and Don Unamba, but then also put together a list of free agents across the league that would fit well in Ottawa and make a splash in the nation’s capital.

Set to become a free agent in February around the league would be receivers Bryan Burnham, Duke Williams, Brandon Banks, Lucky Whitehead, Markeith Ambles, Ricky Collins Jr, Kenny Lawler, Darvin Adams, Steven Dunbar, Reggie Begelton, Josh Huff, Rasheed Bailey, DaVaris Daniels, Kamar Jorden, Jordan Williams-Lambert, Jake Wieneke, Greg Ellingson, and Kyran Moore. Each of those names, and some others would be big name pickups to add to the core Ottawa already has in place, and could have in place with R.J Harris, Ryan Davis, Jordan Smallwood, Nate Behar and Kenny Stafford. Offensive linemen Nolan MacMillan and Mark Korte are also pending free agents for the Redblacks, so bringing both of them back would be a great start for Shawn Burke’s rebuild of the offensive line. He can also sign offensive linemen Stanley Bryant, Brett Boyko, Tony Washington, Derek Dennis, Justin Renfrow, Kay Okafor, Josiah St John, Jemarcus Hardrick, Brandon Revenberg, Sean McEwen, Ryker Matthews, Cameron Jefferson and other CFL offensive linemen if they become available on February 8th when free agency opens.

The Ottawa Redblacks need to have players that help both Caleb Evans and De’Lance Turner for 2022 if those are the players they want in the backfield. Both of them shined when given a chance in 2021, but was hit hard with injuries and inconsistency up front to their offensive line. If they have a solid line in front of them, and if Evans has weapons around him, the young duo could have a very special season in 2022.

As for the defensive side of the ball. A lot went right in 2021. The defence played their hearts out every week of the 2021 CFL season and kept the team in games when the offence couldn’t. With Abdul Kanneh, Micah Awe, Don Unamba, Avery Ellis, Davon Coleman, Stefan Charles, Randall Evans and Antoine Pruneau’s contracts all expiring come February, there will be a lot of big decisions to make for Mike Benevides’ guys, but what decisions will be the right ones?

Every great defence needs a good pass rush, good linebacking support and a good backfield. Right now under contract is Praise Martin-Oguike, Cleyon Laing and Kene Onyeka on the line, Avery Williams, Shaheed Salmon, Dwayne Norman, Adam Auclair and Dan Basambombo at linebacker and Sherrod Baltimore, Brandin Dandridge, Ranthony Texada, and Treshaun Abrahams Webster in the backfield for the 2022 CFL season. As it stands, Shawn Burke has some work to do. He will need to ensure that the pass rush improves, while he adds towards the linebacking core and the secondary. Bringing back Micah Awe would be crucial for the linebacking core, as he and Avery Williams combined for 165 tackles in 2021. Both Abdul Kanneh and Randall Evans should also be considered as must re-signs for Burke after the impacts they both made in Ottawa in 2021, but there are also a number of free agents available for him to sign that can make the Redblacks team better on defence for 2022 that he may consider.

In February, pass rushers Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat are set to become free agents in Winnipeg. If they are not able to afford them both, one will be on the market for another CFL team to sign. Ottawa, with just 30 sacks in 2021 is in need of a pass rush that can support their secondary. One of the Bombers’ stars would be a big sign for the Redblacks, and as would be other pending free agents Kwaku Boateng of Edmonton, David Menard of Montreal, A.C Leonard of Saskatchewan, Shawn Lemon of Calgary and Cordarro Law of Toronto.

Linebackers Jameer Thurman and Darnell Sankey are to be free agents from the Calgary Stampeders, while Toronto’s Henoc Muamba, Dexter Mcoil, and Cameron Judge, Hamilton’s Simoni Lawrence and Jevon Santos Knox, Winnipeg’s Adam Bighill and Kevin Brown, Saskatchewan’s Larry Dean, Deon Lacey and the Herdman twins all become free agents as well alongside Elks’ Derrick Moncrief. Linebacker is not a place of need for the Redblacks if they lock up Micah Awe, as they would still have Avery Williams, Jerod Fernandez, Adam Auclair, Shaheed Salmon and Dwayne Norman with him, however without Awe one or two of those names should be on a whiteboard at TD Place with a circle around it.

Micah Awe prior to a game at TD Place photo from Awe’s Twitter

At defensive back, like the linebacking core, if everyone is re-signed, it is not a place of need, but with Abdul Kanneh, Don Unamba, Randall Evans and Antoine Pruneau still unsigned, it wouldn’t hurt to look at some playmakers like Jonathan Rose, Tunde Adeleke, Royce Metchie, DaShaun Amos, Mercy Maston, Alden Darby, Robertson Daniel, and Jonathan Moxey in free agency. Sherrod Baltimore and Brandin Dandridge who are already under contract for 2022 are proven playmakers in Ottawa and can be lock down cornerbacks, but you need more than two good backs in the CFL, as it is a passing league.

Jonathan Rose with the Elks photo from 3DownNation

2021 officially comes to an end tonight, and 2022 will begin on Saturday. It has been a tough couple of years from 2019 through 2021, but will 2022 be any different? A few decisions from the front office will decide exactly that very soon.