Recruits have Mustangs riding high

AMANDA ROBINSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

This year's recruiting class is being hailed as one of Mustang football's most successful.

With four of the incoming players -- Brendan Dunn of Burlington, Nate Fitzsimmons of Windsor, John Surla of Niagara Falls and Vaughn Martin of London -- playing for Canada and winning the global championship, coaches Greg Marshall and Paul Gleason have high hopes for the new class.

"The recruiting class is going to make an impact two or four years from now," said Marshall, heading into his first season as head coach.

The Mustangs introduced their new class yesterday at the TD Waterhouse Stadium.

"If we're going to be a Vanier-winning team then it's going to be on the backs of these young men," Marshall said.

Half of the players are from London and area.

Richie Allen from London Saunders and Kody Campbell from Sarnia Northern are being praised as the top athletes in their cities.

Defensive lineman Vaughn Martin from Milford Academy in New York is expected to make an immediate impact. The former London South student was recruited for his size -- six-foot-four, 300 pounds -- and athleticism.

Star defender Craig Butler from London Aquinas will be playing with teammate Ben Roberts, a top running back.

Last fall, Butler played quarterback for Aquinas, leading it to the OFSAA Western Bowl title, and winning the Bob Gooder Award as the top senior player in the Central conference.

"It's just total excitement, great program, great recruits . . . great talent," said Butler, the first member of his family to play for the Mustangs. He hopes to start a family tradition.

Players coming out of the Windsor and Niagara area are also rated top notch.

Eric Willson, accompanied by his twin brother Greg Willson from Lasalle, is "the most outstanding player in Windsor," defensive co-ordinator Gleason said.

Linebacker John Surla of Niagara Falls is an asset to the Mustangs with three years of national junior team experience. Surla has two gold medals, a bronze and two game MVPs with Canada.

And with the possible return of star running back Randy McAuley, the Mustangs are a few steps closer to getting their hands on the coveted Vanier Cup.

Recruiting is a year round committment. And coaches sometimes start as early as Grade 9 to get top players interested in the program.

To ensure success, Gleason believes Western needs "to put together back to back recruiting classes."

Marshall agrees.

"You can't just recruit (for) this year, you gotta recruit two, three years down the road," he said.

For some of the rookies it might be a few years before they start making a contribution. But great play during training camp could earn them a starting spot.

"They're all open . . . (although) returning players have an advantage" said Marshall.

"I'm evaluated on wins and losses, so I have to make sure the best players play."

Other key recruits are Derek Easter, Chatham, Nick Pasic, H.B Beal secondary school, Jonathan Bald, Grimsby, and Jeremy Hipperson, St. Catharines.


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