The Gryphons were defensive lineman Carter Wilson’s first choice to play OUA football with when he graduated from Arnprior District High School in 2016. It just took him two years and a little detour to North Dakota to get here.
“I just missed it,” the 6-foot-4, 225-pound defensive end said of Canadian football. “It was a tough decision all around coming home. Guelph was my best choice coming out of high school and that’s where I initially wanted to go coming out of high school. After going down to the States and experiencing that for a few years, I wanted to come where my heart was at and that was back home in Guelph.”
Wilson spent two years as a defensive end in NCAA play with North Dakota Fighting Hawks. He redshirted his freshman season and suited up for all 12 of his redshirt freshman season last year when he recorded 12 tackles including four for a loss and a sack.
“Up here, you’ve got to get to the quarterback fast,” Wilson said. “The ball comes out quick and there are a lot of quick hitters. The O linemen will keep you more at the line and keep you away from the QB more. The emphasis here is that if you’re going to hit a move, you’ve got to hit it right away and fast.
“There you have a little bit more time to play. Quarterbacks keep the ball more. It’s more complex routes. I would think the biggest emphasis down there is just stopping the run because there’s a lot of running in the States with the four downs and up here it’s just get to the quarterback.”
The Ontario Football Conference defensive lineman of the year with the Ottawa Sooners in 2014, Wilson has 13 solo and six assisted tackles in five games with Gryphs. He also has 2.5 sacks and a team-high seven tackles for a loss.
“I feel like I’m bringing a lot of speed to the edge,” he said. “I think our D line as a whole is just really getting in QB’s faces and causing them to make quick decisions and poor decisions and that’s helping our defence altogether.”
And he can’t help but notice in the differnce in the game from the U.S. to Canada. In the U.S. the offence gets four downs to gain 10 yards and the offensive and defensive linemen line up helmet to helmet. It’s three downs and a yard between the offensive and defensive lines in Canada.
“Compared to the States, the competition’s always tough up front. It’s always big boys,” Wilson said. “The biggest difference would be having to give that yard. The sets are different for the O linemen. They also don’t make as many holding calls as they do down there.”
The extra down to gain 10 yards also changes the style of play.
“It means a lot,” Wilson said. “Teams (in the U.S.) usually come out in the first half and it’s run, run. As our coach usually said, there you’ve got to earn your third downs. Here, first play, second play it’s a throw. You know it’s coming. Having that just lets you play, at my position anyway, lets me play more hot than slow. You can just get there right away.”
The Gryphons also employ a different defensive alignment than is used at North Dakota. It’s a four-man defensive front in Guelph whereas it had been a three-man defensive line at North Dakota.
“I was in a 30 front in the States – a moving 30 front,” Wilson said. “Coming to a 40 is better for me with my ability and my asset just rushing off the edge. Taking out all the double teams I was holding down in the States is really helping me with my body and just keeping me rushing the passer like I want to do.”
And that might have been the biggest dividend to the move north for Wilson.
“I’m back playing Canadian football and Canadian rules and I’m getting back to rushing the passer more.”
Wilson has also noticed a difference in the classroom where he’s studying marketing management.
“School’s going good,” he said. “It’s a lot more tough up here in Canada, but I’m in courses I like now and I’m out of the basic stuff.”