The Guelph Gryphons have added a pair of former defensive coordinators to their coaching staff.
Joe Sardo is to work with the linebackers while Mark Forsyth is to concentrate on the defensive backs. Both were with the McMaster Marauders last season.
“We just looked to get the best coaches and they are definitely guys we looked at as great people to bring in as part of our program,” Gryphon head coach Kevin MacNeill said. “Whenever you get great coaches, it’s a huge bonus. Guys who have coordinated before understand that side of things and really bring us a little bit extra to their positional coaching.”
Sardo had two stints at McMaster for a total of eight seasons and started last season as the Marauders’ defensive coordinator, but left partway through the season and is excited for the opportunity with the Gryphons.
“I wanted to stay involved in the game and the program at Guelph is just fantastic,” Sardo said.
Last season was Forsyth’s 27th with the Marauders and he finished it as co-defensive coordinator with head coach Greg Knox.
“I had 27 great years at McMaster,” Forsyth said. “I had the privilege of coaching with some outstanding coaches and working with some outstanding football players over that time and in the process we had a lot of success and created a lot of memories. I’m extremely grateful for the time that I had there and felt very blessed along the way. Those are years that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
While Sardo and Forsyth are joining the Gryphon coaching staff, Donnavan Carter is leaving it after a season as defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator.
“We just want to wish him the best of luck,” MacNeill said. “He’s considered a friend and he’s been great for our program. He’s great with the kids and he’s done a great job. We were very fortunate to have him for the year he was with us and we wish him all the best in the future.”
For Sardo and Forsyth, joining the Gryphons reunites them with defensive coordinator Adam Grandy who played for McMaster while both were there.
“There’s always a level of comfort when you’ve worked with people before,” Grandy said. “Obviously we’re extremely fortunate to have coach Sardo and coach Forsyth join our staff. They bring an incredible wealth of knowledge to our football program. I think that can just add to the success of our football team and of our defence especially.”
“I had the opportunity to coach Adam when he was there as a linebacker and I’ve got a great relationship with him,” Sardo said. “From my standpoint specifically, I’m really excited to take this role, a role that is good for me for what I do.”
“Adam was a hard-working player,” Forsyth said. “He was the type of guy that would do anything you asked him to do. He loved the game and he had a great passion for the game and you could see it in his coaching.
“Any time you have a chance to see former players that you’ve coached go on and give back to the game of football in various capacities, that’s the greatest thing they could do and that’s the best thank you that they could give you to give back to the game in a way that we were able to give to them. That’s part of passing the torch on and you’re always glad to see kids that you coach stay in the game in some capacity.”
Their addition to the coaching staff adds significant experience to a group that already had plenty of experience.
“If you think of the coaching that this defence has, there’s a lot of experience at every level of the game – CFL, CIS and high school,” Sardo said. “I think this defence and the coaches through Adam’s leadership is really exciting. There’s a lot of good things to come from it.”
“We have quite a collection of defensive coaches that have great expertise in defensive football at large and in technique, positionally speaking,” Forsyth said.
Could having a numerous coaches who have been in charge before be a problem?
“I think from the outside looking in, that could be a concern. Are there too many cooks in the kitchen? But it’s a great situation here,” Grandy said. “I think everyone understands their role within the team and within the coaching staff and everyone’s working toward the same goal.
“Ultimately it’s about success, about getting the best 12 on the field and about calling the right play for the right situation. Everyone’s all onboard about that. It’s good that we get a lot of different ideas and ideas with successful experience as well which again I think just translates to us being a better football team. Having all those former coordinators having a full understanding of the full defence really just makes us better.”
Both Sardo and Forsyth attended a pair of weekend mini camps the Gryphons had in the last six weeks and both will be at next week’s Spring Camp.
“I’m new so just getting to know the players is step 1,” Sardo said. “It’s a building experience for me to get to know the guys, to get to know the system, to get to work alongside Adam and (linebackers coach Nate Galoni) and try to make the players the best I can.”
“That’s the advantage of taking part in the mini camps and spring football – to get up to speed on the upper classmen already in the program and to put names to faces so that come August we’ll know each other pretty well,” Forsyth said. “To that end, that process is going well.”
Both also know that they’ll have plenty of film to watch this off season – film of opposing teams and film of the Gryphons so that they know the tendencies of all the returning players.
Both also know that the time until the start of training camp will fly by in a hurry.
“They always do. It’s a blink of an eye,” Sardo said. “It’s important that the kids train and it’s important that the coaches continue to analyze and work on improvements on what we need to do and what we don’t need to do and what we can clean up.”
“Four months seems like a long time, but I look at it in terms of weeks and it’ll go by quickly,” Forsyth said. “I remember when I played I always thought that this time of the year was such a long time because you’re anxious to get back, but as a coach there’s never enough time.”
All the efforts of the players and coaching staff from now until the start of training camp in mid-August will go to recovering from last season’s 3-5 campaign.
“We have to utilize the summertime,” MacNeill said. “We’re fortunate to have a lot of players around and a lot of our recruits come from this area. We can’t waste those months. We have to utilize them to get our conditioning up and to work on our strength and conditioning.
“We need our players getting ready for the season. It’s going to be here very soon and we’re not very happy with how things went last year. We’re putting in extra work to make sure we’re as ready as possible.”