The Gryphons are ready to step on the field as the reigning Yates Cup champions.“We all won the Yates and we had that goal set out for ourselves and it was great,” quarterback James Roberts said this week. “But there’s a higher part.”While the Gryphons won the OUA championship last year, they still ended their season — their fourth consecutive 7-1 regular season — with a loss to Montreal in the Mitchell Bowl, a CIS football semifinal.“It ended with a sour taste,” Roberts said. “They beat us fair and square, but we can be better and we can show that we’re the best team in the country.”Roberts will be back for his third season with the Gryphons, but he isn’t entering training camp, which opens this weekend, feeling he has the starting position all wrapped up.“It’s always a battle, all the way across,” he said. “There are no positions sealed up. It’s open and everyone’s got to be ready to go. That’s where you can either make or break your season in the week of camp. The first week or so, that’s when everyone’s even and that’s when you start making who’s who. That’s when you start losing reps and losing opportunities to prove yourself. It’s open competition. Everyone wants everything. That’s good.”A lot of the Gryphon players have been on the field throughout the off-season as many stayed in Guelph to work on their conditioning with strength and conditioning coach Jordan Foley. Most weekends, the captains ran skellys (drills involving the defence going against the offence) and most of those not in town drove in for them.“We had a guy driving down from Sudbury,” Gryphon interim head coach Kevin MacNeill said. “There are guys very engaged to want to improve and I think that’s important. You need to have that core leadership of your players who want to be here and want to be better.”Those off-season workouts are thought to be key to a good season. Prior to last season, the Gryphons had many players stay in town to prepare together and that helped in the Yates Cup win. More stayed this year.“We have a lot more commitment now in the off-season and that’s a massive part of season play. I honestly do believe we’ll be a better team come the fall,” Roberts said. “It creates camaraderie — getting reps, doing routes on air and stuff like that. We can go ahead with our playbook on our own just as players without coaches around and we’re then able to build off that and start off quicker and faster.”“The more they do together, the closer they get,” Gryphon offensive coordinator Todd Galloway said. “The bonding they get from training and with Jordan upstairs all summer and out on the field doing strength and conditioning all summer, they just create that culture — that competitive culture, always doing things together and always competing together to get better. That’ll benefit us again and carry over into the year.”The summer sessions can also prepare the players for the usual heat of training camp and the first couple of games of the season. The players went through their conditioning workouts on some pretty humid days this summer. Safety during those days is paramount.“Educating the guys on how that affects them is huge and then just paying attention to their body language and the feedback you get from them. One of the things that I think is important is continuity with these guys and I see them multiple times a week the entire year,” Foley said. “Some of them I’ve known the two and a half years I’ve been here. Knowing if things look off and then educating them about making that decision when to cut it. Whether it’s taking extra rest, getting in shape, getting their shirts off so they can cool a little better with the breeze, making sure their hydrated. Obviously we do a great job with that.”One of the bigger guys on the team is 6-foot-3 defensive lineman Greg Corfield. He was at 315 pounds during the summer sessions.“You just have to make sure you get your calories in during the day and you drink tons of water, more than you should,” he said after one of the workouts on a humid day. “And just come prepared to work.”But he found the amount of teammates who stayed in Guelph this summer, as he did, helped him do the most he could on those hot and humid days.“We had a lot of guys stay this year which is really good,” he said. “That helps push you.”Although there have been changes on the coaching staff with MacNeill moving up from defensive coordinator to replace Stu Lang and Adam Grandy taking over the defensive coordinator role after being the assistant defensive coordinator the last couple of years being at the top of the list, the players aren’t expecting any big surprises because of that. Those in the top coaching positions have been with the team for several years.“Our guy’s Galley (offensive coordinator Todd Galloway),” Roberts said. “I committed here to play for Todd and Todd’s still here. Nothing changes on offence. As far as the whole team goes, (MacNeill’s) new (as interim head coach) but he’s not new. We all know him and we’ve all been around him. Realistically, it’s been the best switch possible. Everyone’s still here, it’s just a few label changes.”However, some coaches have moved on with running backs coach Neil Lumsden leaving to become athletic director at Brock University, defensive backs coach Devin Kavanagh leaving to pursue a career with the RCMP and defensive assistant coach and video coordinator Mike Aloisio leaving for a full-time job at the head office of the CFL.“At those points, more power to them,” Roberts said. “They had opportunities to take and they took them and we’re thankful that we were even part of their journey. It’s awesome for them.”The Gryphons are to start their attempt to get that sour taste of last year’s season-ending Mitchell Bowl loss out of their mouths when training camp starts this weekend. They’re hoping to get a shot at the national championship and hoist the Vanier Cup this year.“Now that we’ve got the Yates, OK, that was a good appetizer, but we really want what really matters,” Roberts said. "We want that last game to be won and finish the year with that last game being a win and that’s what is definitely on everyone’s mind.“No Vanier is won in training camp. That’s just how it is. Realistically, we’re all hungry and we just want to show that Guelph can be on the map, that we’re not a one-and-done. That we’re legit for a long time.”Players are to report to camp Saturday and hit the Alumni Stadium field for the first time Sunday at 8 a.m.