December 30, 2010
The NCAA's bowl season continues, and many of the most important games are still to come. We've already looked at some of the top CFL quarterback prospects currently playing in the NCAA, so now let's turn our attention to the Canadian (or non-import) players involved who may eventually make their way to the CFL. Matt Sekeres of The Globe and Mail has a good list of all the Canadians involved. Working from that starting point, here are five of the most notable ones (in order of the date of the game they're playing in).
—Orlando Franklin, Miami (Sun Bowl vs. Notre Dame, Jan. 31): "The U" may have elected not to hire Marc Trestman, but they still have Canadian content. Well, non-import content anyway. Franklin grew up in Jamaica, but moved to Canada while he was in grade school. He played some high school football in Toronto before heading to Florida and then wound up at Miami. The 6'7'', 310-pound Franklin has been a key presence for the Hurricanes on the offensive line, protecting the blind side of quarterback Jacory Harris. He's widely regarded as a potential second-round draft pick by the NFL, so there's a chance he may never wind up coming north, but if things don't work out there, he could also have a great CFL career.
—Jesse Joseph, UConn (Fiesta Bowl vs. Oklahoma, Jan 1): Joseph, from Saint-Laurent, Quebec, is only a sophomore defensive end, but he's already had a considerable impact. He leads the Huskies with 8.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for losses. UConn's presence in a BCS game is only because they won the Big East's auto-qualifying bid, and the 25th-ranked Huskies are substantial underdogs against the ninth-ranked Sooners, so they might need a good performance from Joseph (pictured above right bringing down USF RB Moise Plancher) and other Canadian stars (centre Moe Petrus and tight end John Delahunt) to pull this one out. A strong pass rush from Joseph and fellow defensive end Trevardo Williams (4.5 sacks) could help even the tables.
—J'Michael Deane, Michigan State (Capital One Bowl vs. Alabama, Jan. 1): Deane, a senior offensive tackle from Toronto, in was chosen in the third round of last year's CFL draft by Calgary, 21st overall. He's been a key part of Michigan State's resurgence this year, starting all 12 of their games at right tackle and helping them to an 11-win season and a share of the Big Ten championship. Deane had never consistently started before this season, but he's been a key component on a reenergized line that's reinvigorated their rushing attack. They may be in for a tough challenge against the Crimson Tide, though, last year's BCS champions.
—Brian Bulcke, Stanford (Orange Bowl vs. Virginia Tech, Jan. 3): Bulcke, a senior defensive end from Windsor, Ontario, was picked sixth overall by Edmonton in the 2010 CFL draft. He's struggled with some significant injuries during the course of his Stanford career, including a season-ending thumb injury last season, but he's largely remained healthy this campaign and has recorded 4.5 tackles for losses. He doesn't get a lot of hype, as Stanford's 3-4 system tends to see more big plays made by linebackers and the Cardinal have plenty of other talented linemen: defensive end Steven Friday has a team-high 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for losses. The Cardinal's high-powered offence may be key to their success in the Orange Bowl, but they'll also have to stop Tech's ground game, and Bulcke may have a role to play in that.
—Bo Lokombo, Oregon (BCS National Championship vs. Auburn, Jan. 10): Lokombo, from Abbotsford, B.C., is already making a significant impact for one of the NCAA's top teams despite only being a redshirt freshman (or in his first year of playing after sitting out a year). Born in Congo, Lokombo moved to Montreal in 1996 with his family. He played some of his high school football in Oregon at South Eugene High School before returning north of the border and starring for Abbotsford's W.J. Mouat Secondary. Initially, it was thought that he might be recruited as a running back, but the Ducks liked his presence as a linebacker. He's made key plays on special teams this year and has also worked his way into the rotation on defence. On the season, he's recovered three fumbles and has returned one for a touchdown. It's going to be interesting to see if he and the rest of the Ducks are able to contain Auburn quarterback and Heisman winner Cam Newton in what should be one of the season's best matchups.