Sumarah finds first piece of the puzzle

Photo courtesy of Gerrit De Vynck/the Charlatan.

Recruiting is one of the most challenging aspects of collegiate sport.

Year after year, coaches spend hours on end scouring the country in search of potential talent, acting as salesmen trying to convince athletes why their program is better than the next.

But in the case of Carleton Ravens football coach Steve Sumarah, he’s got players coming to him — pretty good ones, too.

Jesse Mills, a rookie quarterback with the Saint Mary’s Huskies, is set to follow his old coach to Ottawa and join the Ravens when they hit the field in 2013, according to recent reports in the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun.

Running back Dechaun Beals, another Saint Mary’s recruit and standout from the Maritimes, will do the same.

After 13 seasons with the Huskies, Sumarah was fired as head coach in December — something that clearly didn’t sit well Mills.

But it wasn’t long before the Halifax native found himself back on his feet. After a nationwide search, Carleton introduced Sumarah as the team’s new head coach in January.

From day one, he said the first piece of the puzzle in building a successful on-field product, assuming he’s not it, is to acquire a star quarterback. With Mills, he’s done just that.

Mills, one of the top football prospects in the nation, will instantly become the face of the newly revived Ravens football program.

In order to be eligible to play for the Ravens, Mills will have to sit out a year of college football, which won’t be an issue in this case since the Ravens don’t begin competition until 2013.

In the meantime, he and Beals will suit up for the Ottawa Sooners of the Canadian Junior Football League. Coincidentally, the Sooners play out of Keith Harris Stadium at Carleton — talk about a perfect fit (I’m sure next year’s Charlatan sports staff will have a field day with that.)

I know it’s still early, but it looks like this is the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship between the Sooners and Ravens — akin to the one we’ve seen for years between the Ottawa Guardsmen and the Ravens men’s basketball team.

The Guardsmen, a club team in Ottawa run by Ravens head coach Dave Smart and other current and former Ravens personnel, is Carleton’s unofficial feeder system.

They bring in high school players at an early age, build relationships with them, get them accustomed to Carleton’s style of play, and then pounce on them once they become eligible for varsity competition. Tyson Hinz is a prime example of someone who’s followed this career path.

Having won seven of the last nine national championships, this system is clearly working for them.

Now, I don’t see the Sooners going so far as hiring Ravens football staff to help out with running their team — they do just fine on their own. However, I’m sure they’ll continue to welcome players like Mills and Beals with open arms, even if it’s only for a year or two before they bolt for the Ravens.

Since players don’t lose varsity eligibility in their first two years playing in leagues like the CJFL, there’s no reason why Carleton won’t recruit players like Mills and Beals, let them develop for a season or two in their own backyard, and then bring them into the fold with five years of eligibility when they’re a bit more ready for university competition.

This obviously makes a lot of sense now since Carleton won’t officially join the OUA until the 2013-14 season, but it will be just as valuable when their roster eventually fills out.

It’s a win-win situation all around — except at Saint Mary’s, of course.

Although Sumarah hasn’t accomplished anything at Carleton yet (he’d likely be the first person to tell you that), I don’t think anyone could fault him for considering this a mini-victory.

After all, it was Sumarah who recruited Mills and Beals at Saint Mary’s — not anyone else. After getting sacked for no apparent reason, it seems only right for him to be there to foster their development and hopefully enjoy their success.

Luckily for Ravens fans, he’ll be doing that at Carleton.

Farhan Devji
Farhan Devji is an author, journalist, and communications professional based in Ottawa. His work has appeared in the Ottawa Citizen, the Edmonton Journal, the Vancouver Sun, and the Montreal Gazette. Contact him directly at fdevji@gmail.com.

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