Despite fall cancellation, Faulds adds 31 student-athletes to Men’s Football roster
Coach Michael Faulds and the Laurier Golden Hawks Men’s Football program announced the addition of 31 student-athletes as part of their 2020 recruiting class.
Despite a fall without football due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Coach Faulds was able to recruit a talented mix of players on all three sides of the ball. Faulds is excited about the on-field talent of the new additions as well as the character of the 31 new Hawks.
“We feel super good and are really excited about the 2020 class. It’s a shame that we don’t get to practice right away and see how they would all do,” Coach Faulds said.
On June 8, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) announced that all sanctioned sports would be cancelled until Dec. 31, 2020. This announcement resulting in no fall football season for Ontario universities also posed a challenge for Coach Faulds and all other football operation staff across Ontario as uncertainty began to grow surrounding each team’s commitments.
Most of Laurier’s recruits were signed on before the pandemic began. The challenge then became making sure that the signings were going to stay committed towards fall university given the circumstances.
“The fact is most of them committed before the pandemic started. The challenge for us as a staff in particular was when it got announced in early June that the OUA was going to cancel the fall season. Then we really started to question how many of the guys would still want to go to university,” Coach Faulds said.
Although there is no football season, Coach Faulds was pleased that 31 new athletes had still committed to universities and their “futures.”
“We were pleasantly surprised that they decided to come and get a head start on their education. Although there is not going to be a football season, [education] still remains one of their top priorities and that is important.”
University Stadium, the home of the Golden Hawks football team as well as most of the other Golden Hawk training facilities have yet to re-open as the team remains connected in a virtual atmosphere.
The unique but necessary circumstances of a cancelled fall season, online classes and no training with the team or on campus has proven to be a tough challenge for any student-athlete and is a testament to the 31 that have just joined the Hawks’ locker room.
As he so often does, Coach Faulds looked at the cancellation optimistically as he touched upon the potential that many of these players have for long-term development.
“Looking at it positively, all of these guys, whether they are coming in at 17 or 18, have a lot to develop. They need to learn the playbook, get stronger in the weight room, and with this time off, they will be able to do these things and be that much better for training camp in 2021,” Coach Faulds said.
The 31-player recruiting class was announced over Laurier’s social media accounts during the last week of August, unveiled by position. Coach Faulds prioritized depth and balance as all three sides of the ball have been covered in the new signings.
A past season in which star running back Le’vondre Gordon and all-time leading scorer, placekicker, Nathan Mesher graduated, the Golden Hawks knew they entered the off-season having to fill some voids. Defensive lineman Sam Achaempong and a few other defensive players also who departed the Golden Hawks this past season upon being drafted to the CFL.
The 2020 recruiting group includes 16 offensive players, 12 defensive players and three specialists.
“We were able to get a nice broad spectrum of all of the positions. We were looking to have some balance and essentially we checked off every single position, which was nice,” Coach added.
Strong-arm quarterback Taylor Elgersma who committed to Laurier a few months ago will be joined by two of his defensive teammates, Duncan Naudle (Defensive back) and Matt Caruso (Defensive line).
Standout offensive lineman Colton Longboat is a member of the class as well as three local student-athletes. Defensive backs Zach Harvey and Jared Weiler are from Kitchener and Waterloo respectively, while linebacker recruit Grant Gilmour is from Cambridge.
Laurier added three out of province recruits, two from British Columbia and one from Alberta and also signed three specialists, who Coach Faulds prioritized.
“Funny enough, the positions that the average fan doesn’t look at too often. Two of our biggest needs were a long snapper and a kicker. Those specialists were top priority,” Coach Faulds said.
The Golden Hawks added long snapper Jason MacGougan from Burlington, Ontario and kickers Dawson Hodge of British Columbia and Andrew Kaszuba from Mississauga, Ontario.
Both Kaszuba and Hodge will have big shoes to fill, as graduated kicker Nathan Mesher had a decorated career with the Golden Hawks. Mesher is Laurier’s all-time leader in field goals made and points with 73 and 355, respectively. His 73 field goals rank sixth all-time in OUA history and Mesher also holds the record for the longest field goal made by a Laurier kicker, hitting from 52 yards against the Gales in 2017.
Although there remains great uncertainty on when OUA football will be back on the field, Coach Faulds remains optimistic and is making sure his players are focused and productive throughout the off-field months.
“Even though we don’t have practice every day, we are going to try the best we can to keep our players structured this fall and help them succeed both academically and with their football IQ.”