Oct 26, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Akeel Lynch (22) runs the ball in the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. The Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Penn State Nittany Lions 63-14. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Sports

A Look at Ontarian's Playing Division-I NCAA Football

28 Ontarian’s – and counting – are on the rosters of schools playing NCAA Division-I football. While the number of players is small in comparison to sports like baseball, where there are 68 Ontarian’s playing in Division-I, the growth of Ontarian’s in Division-I Football has been steady.

It was only a short time ago, people made a big deal about a kid from Ontario receiving a scholarship offer to play Division-I football. Now, players like Brandon Bridge, Akeel Lynch, Tevuan Smith and Joshua Stanford are key components of Division-I programs.

With college football officially kicking off Wednesday night, here is a list of the 23 Ontario born players taking the field for a Division-I NCAA football program this year.

Anyone missing? If you find that somebody has been left out, please leave a comment below, or email me at [email protected], with a link to the school’s football roster for the 2014 season.

 

Seniors:

Nov 16, 2013; Annapolis, MD, USA; South Alabama Jaguars quarterback Brandon Bridge (7) prepares to throw the ball against the Navy Midshipmen in the fourth quarter at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Bridge, Quarterback, South Alabama (Mississauga, ON)

After backing up starter Ross Metheny last season, Brandon Bridge is all set to take over the starting role, for what is a very talented South Alabama team. Although expectations are sky-high in Mobile, Bridge’s combination of talent, athleticism and play-making ability, has everybody around South Alabama very excited.

At 6-foot-5, 235-pounds, it’s easy to see why people get excited about Bridge’s physical makeup. Since the day he arrived at South Alabama, he has wowed teammates and coaches with his physical tools. But as the starting quarterback now, it’s not just about “wowing” people, it’s about leading his team to the next level. Taking that next step is something Bridge says, “I’ve been waiting for this a very long time”.

The University of South Alabama aren’t the only ones with high expectations for Bridge though, Senior Bowl director Phil Savage also has high expectations for the Mississauga native, as Bridge was announced to the Senior Bowl watch list yesterday.

After a summer full of hard work that saw Bridge finish second in the Manning Passing Academy, all eyes are on Bridge’s overwhelming potential, in what is a make-or-break season. If the summer was any indication, Air Canada looks ready to take flight this fall.

James Bodanis, Offensive Line, Michigan State (Toronto, ON)

After transferring from the University of Toronto last season, Bodanis had to sit out the entire 2013 season. Throughout practice last year, Bodanis took reps along the defensive line, but a recent shift this spring now has Bodanis lined up on the offensive side of the ball.

During the spring, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio praised Bodanis for his work at right tackle. 

The switch from one side of the ball to the other, is a positional experiment according to head coach Mark Dantonio. But after praising Bodanis in spring ball, it sounds like that change is going to be permanent.

Oliver Kathalay, Defensive Back, Eastern Michigan (Mississauga, ON)

After a standout career at both St. Joseph’s Secondary School (Mississauga,ON) and Avondale High School (Avondale, GA), Oliver Kathalay has spent the last three season only practicing for Eastern Michigan.

As Kathalay enters his senior season, he sounds primed to see the field this year for the Eagles. Eagles All-Access did a nice Senior Spotlight piece on Kathalay a few weeks back; you can watch the video through the link below.

Shaquille Murray-Lawrence, Running Back, UNLV (Scarborough, ON)

Equipped with arguably the best top-end speed on the team, Murray Lawrence will compete for more playing time this year after the departure of starting running back Tim Cornett. With Murray-Lawrence’s explosive speed, UNLV expects to see more plays like this 73-yard touchdown run in his senior season.

Dillon Guy, Offensive Line, Buffalo (Hamilton, ON)

A physical offensive linemen that has played in all three seasons, Guy played in 12 games last season, making five starts for the Bulls. Guy was part of an offensive line that helped lead the way for 2,063 rushing yards last season. Guy is currently injured, but he should continue to see substantial playing time in 2014, once he returns.

Juniors:

Sep 28, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Tevaun Smith (4) catches a pass in the second quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 28, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Tevaun Smith (4) catches a pass in the second quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Tevaun Smith, Wide Receiver, Iowa (Toronto, ON)

Although Iowa is considered to be very deep at wide receiver this season, Toronto native Tevaun Smith should take on a featured role this year.

Throughout preseason training camp, Smith has continuously impressed, and even received high praise from Hawkeyes receiver coach Bobby Kennedy during an interview with the Big Ten Network.

Even Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz spoke highly of Smith when asked by Marc Morehouse of The Gazette.

I’ll go back to the point I made earlier, a guy like Tevaun Smith got better last year, but if he doesn’t keep getting better, we can take that passing game and throw it in the garbage can.” said Ferentz.

Smith is well-known around Iowa City for his phenomenal catch against Michigan last year, but if preseason camp has been any indication, Smith looks ready for a big season in 2014, that will have Hawkeyes fans remembering him for more than just “the catch against Michigan”.

Arjen Colquhoun, Cornerback, Michigan State (Windsor, ON)

Entering his fourth season at Michigan State, Colquhoun will compete as one of the players vying to replace departed cornerback Darqueze Dennard. Colquhoun will start the year as Michigan State’s third cornerback, but should see playing time in both sub-packages and special teams.

Colquhoun should continue to develop this season, and he is expected to play a larger role in the Spartans defence over the next two seasons.

Nov 26, 2013; DeKalb, IL, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies wide receiver Juwan Brescacin (11) attempts to make a catch against Western Michigan Broncos safety Demetrius Pettway (2) during the fourth quarter at Huskie Stadium. NIU defeats Western Michigan 33-14. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Juwan Brescacin, Wide Receiver, Northern Illinois *redshirt junior (Toronto, ON)

At 6-foot-4, 224-pounds, Brescacin is a big receiver with strong hands, that looks to take on a more prominent role in the Huskies offence this year. Brescacin appeared in 14 games last season, starting in seven of them, and posted 33 receptions for 499 yards.

Brescacin is a former basketball player, converted into a football player during his time at Culver Prep School. While Brescacin continues to develop his skills on the field, he has all the physical tools to become a great wide receiver for Northern Illinois. Entering his fourth season at NIU, Brescacin should take a big leap forward this year and become one of the Huskies best wide receivers.

Josiah St. John, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma *redshirt junior (Pickering, ON)

As the second Canadian to ever play for Oklahoma (according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter), St. John has had a long journey to Norman, Oklahoma, that has featured stops in Toronto, Fresno and Texas. While St. John’s journey has been an interesting one, his play on the field has been fantastic.

Reports coming from Oklahoma’s camp have said that head coach Bob Stoop is excited that St. John has really “come-on” at left tackle.

By the sounds of things, St. John should definitely see time at left tackle this year, or possibly even start.

Mitchell Winters, Defensive Line, Miami (Ohio) (Mississauga,ON)

Mitch Winters played in 12 games last season for the Red Hawks, making nine starts. Although Winters would finish the year with 13 total tackles, his skill set along the line of scrimmage developed each game.

Entering the 2014 season, Winters will start along the defensive line and be relied upon to create a disruption up front. After an offseason full of hard work, the former Mount Caramel Crusader looks more than ready to become a difference maker up front this year.

Terry Ayeni, Defensive End, Iowa State (Toronto, ON)

After posting 50 tackles, 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss in 12 games with New Mexico Military Institute last season, Ayeni was a highly sought after recruit. Ayeni would eventually choose Iowa State over West Viriginia, South Florida, New Mexico and Northern Illinois. Unfortunately for Ayeni, a summer injury has derailed his 2014 season, as Ayeni has torn his ACL and will redshirt in 2014.

A very compelling story about Ayeni was written in the Des Moines Register back in April, discussing the world-wide journey Ayeni has taken up until this point. You can read the article here.

Trent Corney, Defensive End, Virginia (Brockville, ON)

After former Virginia Cavalier Brent Ubran went in the fourth round of this year’s NFL Draft, Corney looks to work his way towards becoming the second Canadian linemen drafted from the ‘Hoos.

Although Corney spent most of his time on special team last season, he did play in all 12 games, and managed to see time on 63 defensive snaps. With departure of Urban and a few others on the ‘Hoos defensive line, Corney should see his playing time grow this season.

Allison Campbell, Offensive Line, Eastern Michigan *redshirt junior (Kagawong, ON)

Campbell played in eight games for the Eagles last season, but only started in one game against Howard. In 2012, Campbell played in all 12 games and started in 10 of them. 

Entering the 2014 season, the Eagles coaching staff has Campbell set to start at centre. For Campbell, the start at centre would mean that he has played at every single position along the offensive line. Meanwhile for the Eagles, Campbell’s versatility along the offensive line looks to be his best asset to both himself and the team. 

Michael Topolinski, Linebacker, Michigan State (Richmond Hill, ON)

After transferring from New Mexico Military Institute, Topolinski sat out the entire 2013 season last year. Topolinski is eligible to play this year and will more than likely provide depth to the Spartans linebackers unit.

Oct 26, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Akeel Lynch (22) runs the ball in the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. The Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Penn State Nittany Lions 63-14. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 26, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Akeel Lynch (22) runs the ball in the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. The Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Penn State Nittany Lions 63-14. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Sports

 

Sophomore:

Akeel Lynch, Running Back, Penn State *redshirt sophomore (Toronto, ON)

As new Penn State head coach James Franklin is all set to start a new chapter in Happy Valley this season, his imprint on the Nittany Lions offence should help Toronto running back Akeel Lynch see an expanded role this year. Although Lynch is currently listed as third on the Nittany Lions depth chart, he was announced as the teams starting kick returner earlier this week.

While Lynch waits behind seniors Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak for one more season, he will more than likely get his fair share of carries this season, as his talent makes him a tough player to leave off the field. Lynch’s combination of speed and power make him an interesting player, that could easily emerge as one of the Big Ten’s top future running backs.

Nov 2, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies wide receiver Joshua Stanford (5) runs for a 69 yard gain in the third quarter against the Boston College Eagles at Alumni Stadium. The Eagles defeated the Hokies 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Ed Wolfstein-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 2, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies wide receiver Joshua Stanford (5) runs for a 69 yard gain in the third quarter against the Boston College Eagles at Alumni Stadium. The Eagles defeated the Hokies 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Ed Wolfstein-USA TODAY Sports

Joshua Stanford, Wide Receiver, Virginia Tech *redshirt sophomore (Mississauga, ON)

Josh Stanford put together a great freshmen season last year, playing in all 13 games, making 11 starts, and setting Virginia Tech freshmen records for both receptions (40) and yards (640). Stanford’s great play earned him an honourable mention on the freshmen All-American team by College Football News. Entering this season, Stanford was expected to take on a larger role in the Hokies offence, and according to wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead, “Stanford has quietly been the Hokies best receiver this preseason.”

The rest of the Hokies coaching staff definitely agreed with Aaron Morehead’s statements, when the Hokies named Stanford as one of their number one receivers a few days ago.

Although there is a new quarterback under centre in Blacksburg, Stanford looks set to have a breakout season in 2014.

Eli Ankou, Defensive Line, UCLA *redshirt sophomore (Ottawa, ON)

After suffering an injury early last season, Ankou played the last few games of the year on special teams and the defensive line. According to UCLA beat writer Jack Wang, Ankou will see more reps this year according to head coach Jim Mora.

Ankou should continue to see more playing time, as he continues to progress in the Bruins defence.

Faith Ekakitie, Defensive Line, Iowa (Brampton, ON)

Ekakitie moved to defensive end this spring, after spending most of his time at defensive tackle last season. The transition to defensive end has gone well this summer, according to multiple reports.

At 6-foot-3, 287-pounds, Ekakitie has a frame that allows him to play anywhere along the defensive line. Add in his long arms and you can see why Iowa is excited for Ekakitie’s future.

Ryan Doull, Offensive Line, Virigina *redshirt sophomore (Kanata, ON)

Doull played in nine of the Cavalier’s 12 games last season, but saw the majority of his time on special teams. That looks to change in 2014, as Doull is currently pencilled in as the Cavaliers starting left guard.

With Virginia’s offensive line already suffering from injuries, Doull will more than likely take on a much larger role with the ‘Hoos this season, as their depth chart continues to be tested.

Freshmen:

David Knevel,Offensive Line, Nebraska (Brantford, ON)

After redshirting in 2013, Knevel has worked hard during the offseason, adding 10 pounds of muscle to his frame. Standing at 6-foot-9, 310-pounds, Knevel is an imposing linemen that has impressed many around the Big Ten.

Knevel figures to see some time at tackle this season, and is without a doubt, a key part of the Corn Huskers future offensive line.

Matthew Boateng, Defensive Back, Kansas (Pickering, ON)

A three-star prospect from IMG Academy, Boateng is entering his freshmen season with Kansas. At 6-foot, 180-pounds, Boateng is an athletic cornerback that should provide depth to the Jayhawks defence.

Ryan Hunter, Offensive Line, Bowling Green *redshirt freshmen (North Bay, ON)

Hunter redshirted in his freshmen season last year. But after starting at right guard during the teams spring game, Hunter should see the field in 2014.

Michael O’Connor, Quarterback, Penn State (Ottawa, ON)

Entering his freshmen season at Penn State, O’Connor is a highly touted quarterback that chose Penn State over the likes of Michigan State, Mississippi State, Missouri, Syracuse and Vanderbilt – just to name a few.

During his senior season at IMG Academy last year, O’Connor threw for 1,804 yards and 18 touchdowns under the tutelage of head coach Chris Weinke. O’Connor’s performance would earn him an invite to the Under Armour All-American game.

Since then, the Ottawa native has worked very hard at Penn State , and has received high praise from head coach James Franklin. With sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenburg firmly entrenched as the number one play-caller, O’Connor will continue to battle Trace McSorley for the backup position.

Tyler Topolinski, Defensive End, Michigan State *redshirt freshmen (Richmond Hill, ON)

After redshirting last season, Topolinski will more than likely provide depth along the Spartans defensive line. Topolinski joins his brother Michael on a stout Spartans defence.

Trey Rutherford, Offensive Line, Connecticut (Markham, ON)

Rutherford has impressed the Huskies coaching staff throughout fall training camp and has now worked his way on to the second team offensive line. According to offensive line coach Mike Foley, “They are going to be very good players when it is all said and done but they have to keep working, get them going and gain that experience.” said Foley, when asked about Rutherford and the Huskies offensive line.

While Rutherford gets accustomed to the Huskies offence, his future looks very promising in Storrs.

Peter Godber, Offensive Line, Rice, *redshirt freshmen (Toronto, ON)

After a strong spring, Godber will more than likely see time along the Owls offensive line in 2014. Godber redshirted last season, and was also selected to the World Team in the 2012 IFAF International Bowl.

Kain Anzovino, Long Snapper, Kent State, *redshirt freshmen (Fort Erie, ON)

After redshirting last season, Anzovino will compete for long snapping duties this fall at Kent State.

Tyler O’Henly, Offensive Line, Buffalo *redshirt freshmen (London, ON)

O’Henly is going into his redshirt freshmen season at Buffalo this year. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound freshmen will more than likely provide depth along the Bulls line.

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