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For the first time since Greg Marshall became head coach of the Western Mustangs in 2007, they’ll go into training camp facing significant changes in how they do business on the sidelines.
Most of those changes revolve around Marshall.
Marshall gave up most of the play-calling duties to Steve Snyder, a Londoner he hired to be the Mustangs’ offensive co-ordinator. Snyder spent the previous three years as the offensive co-ordinator for the St. Francis Xavier Axemen.
Marshall will continue to have input into the offence but with the burden of calling every offensive play removed, he will be more of a traditional head coach with an overview of all aspects of his team.
The Mustangs begin training camp Saturday leading to their Ontario university football opener on Sunday, Aug. 27, in Toronto against York Lions.
“It’s going to be a big change,” Marshall said. “I’ve got lots of time to talk to you now. I’ll be calling you now.”
Marshall has taken the Mustangs to the doorstep of ultimate success in the OUA but hasn’t won a Vanier Cup. Last year proved to be one of the most difficult endings to a season since Marshall began coaching. The Mustangs were eight minutes from a Yates Cup win, leading the Laurier Golden Hawks by 21 points. The final eight minutes were a nightmare as the Hawks scored 24 points to beat the Mustangs and win the Yates Cup 43-40.
Marshall has now put himself in a situation of being able to get an overview of all aspects of team play. Snyder will have pretty much a free hand in calling plays.
“I absolutely trust him,” Marshall said. “In the last six months since we hired him, he’s worked with our guys. He’s everything that I thought he would be. He’s got a great work ethic. He’s into football; a great recruiter. He’s on top of stuff.”
Marshall said the offence will include a lot of what the Mustangs have run over the years but with some twists.
“He said, ‘OK, you run a great offence; I’m going to run your offence. I’m not going to put in my offence,’ ” Marshall said. “He’s going to change some things, add some things, different things which is always good but essentially it’s the same offence we’ve always run.”
It will be a comfort to quarterback Chris Merchant who ran the offence all last year. He’s spent the summer in London and should be familiar with the competitive aspect of the OUA. He had a good first year after not getting much playing time the previous two years before his transfer to Western.
“He’s become a real leader,” Marshall said.
The one thing the Mustangs will have to overcome is the spectre of last November’s Yates Cup cataclysm.
Marshall admits it’s never far from his mind.
“Every day I think, ‘How did we lose that last game?’ ” Marshall said. “We use it as a motivating tool. I’m a firm believer that you don’t dwell on things because it becomes kind of an anchor, an albatross around your neck that weighs you down.
“But don’t forget things like that. Remember them and don’t make the same mistakes. Learn from what you did wrong in those last six or seven minutes. You have to work on not getting in that situation again and if you get in that situation, how are you better prepared? You definitely use it as motivation, learn from it and move on.”
One reason Marshall gave up his play-calling duties was so he could become more involved with all the units that make up his team.
“One of the things I plan on doing is getting involved more with the whole team and that means special teams and defence,” he said. “I can add a lot on how we prepare our defence. Our defence needs a really good look to prepare them.”
Most teams prepare for their opponents during the week by running a scout team that mimics the other team’s offence. Marshall will run the scout team, giving him a better of what his team should do defensively as well.
“There were times last year when I barely got to look at what our defence did in the previous game because I was so concerned with what we were doing on offence,” Marshall said. “I’m going to spend a lot more time not necessarily coaching the defence but more involved in what they are doing.”
The players report to camp Saturday morning and hold their first practice 3:30 at p.m.
They begin two-a-day practices Sunday going from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
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