There's no argument that the CFL's annual evaluation camp is an important event for the invited prospects. Talent evaluators like Wally Buono, John Hufnagel and Paul LaPolice all have their own elements they focus on, but they're still using the weekend to try and figure out which CIS, NCAA and junior football players might be good draft picks for their team. In many cases, though, as Duane Forde comments, the combine is just part of the larger picture of evaluating a prospect, and a huge amount of focus is given to looking at how the player performed in games. For players who don't have a lot of recent game tape, though, such as Saskatchewan Huskies' defensive back Keenan MacDougall, an outstanding combine performance takes on a whole new light and may prove to be the deciding factor in if they ever get a shot at the CFL level. With a future career at stake, there's a huge amount of pressure to step up and make something memorable happen, and that's exactly what MacDougall did with impressive showings in both the broad jump and vertical jump Saturday.
MacDougall not only notched a combine-best 10 feet, 7 and a half inches in the broad jump, an event that can showcase an athlete's explosiveness, he also managed to beat his previous personal best by half an inch. That sort of performance under the bright lights of E-Camp says a lot of impressive things about MacDougall, as does the 41.5 inch mark he put up in the vertical jump (second only to St. Francis Xavier defensive back Dylan Hollohan, who recorded a 42.5). What makes MacDougall's performance particularly impressive is that it came only eight weeks after he returned to serious training following a partially-torn quadriceps muscle that caused him to miss the whole 2011 season. As he told CFL.ca's Don Landry, MacDougall was especially fired up to go and impress scouts at the combine given his lack of 2011 stats:
"This past season I had a knee injury which kind of prevented me from doing much until about eight weeks ago," he said. "I'd just been doing rehab and physio and it kind of led into more specific stuff. When I got the invite (to E-Camp), it was kind of a surprise that I even got invited. I decided to go and make the most of it."
When asked if he found it amazing that he was able to accomplish such a thing with limited work out time, MacDougall shrugged it off.
"I don't know, it is what it is. Adrenaline was kind of pumping, so, maybe that had something to do with it, too."
MacDougall's lack of recent game tape doesn't necessarily reflect on his ability, but it would normally hurt his chances of getting drafted. With a pool of potential players as deep as the one the CFL has right now (59 players earned E-Camp invites, around 140 more headed to Forde's National Invitational Camp, and several big names weren't at either thanks to NFL interest in their services), personnel executives don't exactly have to look too far to find capable guys who played well last season. MacDougall and others limited thanks to injury in 2011 are at a disadvantage heading into the combine, but the great thing about an event like E-Camp is it offers players in their situation an excellent opportunity to show CFL executives what they can do. MacDougall obviously impressed many with what he managed to accomplish Saturday, and he'll have an opportunity to build on that impression in Sunday's combine events, including the 40-yard-dash and one-on-one workouts. We'll see if that's enough to earn him a draft slot in May.