One of the Gryphon players who should benefit with even more passes thrown his way thanks to the arrival of head coach Ryan Sheahan is fifth-year receiver Zeph Fraser.
Sheahan’s quarterbacks set single-season national passing yards records two of the four seasons he was an assistant head coach and offensive coordinator with the Calgary Dinos and that can only be good news for Fraser who’s starting his third season with the Gryphons after transferring from the Laurier Golden Hawks.
“We’ve got high-quality guys right now and it’s a blessing to be here,” Fraser said following a training camp workout at Alumni Stadium. “We’ve got Kade (Belyk), myself, Kian Schaffer-Baker, Jordan Terrio, etc. Everyone’s ready to play – first string, second, third, fourth -- everyone.”
In his two previous seasons with the Gryphons, Fraser has hauled in 48 passes for 630 yards and five touchdowns. His yardage total includes an 85-yard play last season. Last season Fraser caught 28 passes in the regular season, second on the team to the 36 caught by Belyk while Schaffer-Baker was third with 21. No other receiver caught more than six.
With the team days away from its season opener against the McMaster Marauders, Fraser feels the team is ready to do some big things this season.
“We have a good coaching staff always pushing us to greatness,” he said. “We’re playing at a high pace, pro level, so we’re ready to fly. Offence is looking good, defence is looking good. We’re up tempo and we’re ready for anything right now.”
Like every other team in the OUA conference, the Gryphons have had to deal with a shortened training camp and run-up to the season opener.
“It’s only 10 days,” he said. “It’s a lot shorter and we’ve got two-a-days as well and it’s high tempo so we’re out here flying. We start in the mornings, then meetings, then we’re back on the field and then meetings again.”
The shortened training camp meant that off-season player-led sessions with his teammates were critical.
“It’s going to show if you did not work out,” Fraser said. “If you did not work out this summer, then guys are going to take your spot. Guys are going to push you and at this level, you have to be conditioned. If you’re not conditioned, it’s going to show on the field and if you’re not performing on the field, then your spot’s taken by someone else. There’s always someone else behind you that’s ready to play.”
Fraser knows there’s still a bit of work to be done before the Gryphons face McMaster.
“We’ve just got to dial in. We’ve got to calm down and just fly out there. There’s not much else we can do. We’re doing everything in our power, our coaches know what we have to do. We just have to come out here and make little adjustments. Everyone’s ready to go. Everyone’s fired up. We’ve got a bad taste in our mouth from last year and we’re not going to let that happen this year. We’re giving it our all. Everyone’s hungry out here, whether it’s DBs, D line, receivers, quarterbacks, everyone. Everyone’s hungry out here -- coaches, too. We’ve got an A-plus facility and we’re ready to work.”
While this will be Fraser’s third year with the Gryphons, it’ll be his fifth of OUA football after starting with Laurier where he had two catches for 57 yards and a TD in 2015.
“Man, it flew by,” he said. “I’m just blessed to have another year of football and see where it takes me. If it’s to the next level or wherever, all I know is that there are memories here and all I know is that the coaching staff before and the coaching staff now have taught me to be the best player I can be and also to be a man and a hard-working person in the future.”
The Gryphons and McMaster are to battle at Alumni Stadium Sunday in the season opener for both teams. Game time is 1 p.m.