Calgary: Next Man Up
After more than a year and a half of uncertainty, CFL training camps are finally operating and we have a solidified start date for the season. Canadian football is in the air, but a lot has changed within the league in the 600 days since the final whistle of the 2019 season.
We’ve seen signings, trades, enemies turned friends, and even two full CFL draft classes selected.
For the Calgary Stampeders, there is a looming question surrounding their pass-catchers. The wide receiver room at McMahon stadium has seen a dramatic overhaul through the extended off-season.
Leading pass catcher Reggie Begelton has found himself in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, while Eric Rogers and Juwan Brescacin will be taking their talents to Toronto this August.
Replacing the impact and production provided by Begelton and Rogers will be no small task. The Stampeders however, have a talented group of young receivers who have an opportunity to showcase their skill in training camp as the season approaches.
Thankfully for quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and the Stampeders, weapons like Hergy Mayala, Josh Huff and Markeith Ambles have returned for the 2021 season. The young corps of receivers accounted for 110 receptions, 1460 yards and six touchdowns the last time we saw Calgary in action.
So, who could potentially become the breakout pass-catcher for the Stamps this season?
The realistic option is Hergy Mayala. The second year wideout accounted for 38 receptions, 562 yards and 5 touchdowns. Mayala is a budding star in the league and certainly posses the skill set necessary to become the number one option for Mitchell.
However, my prediction for a breakout star in Calgary’s training camp is national receiver, Colton Hunchak. Admittedly, Hunchak didn’t produce a very eye-catching stat-line by the end of 2019.
The York University product was the last pick in the 2019 CFL draft. Entering the 2019 trading camp, expectations for the rookie were low and he was eventually sent back to York to finish out his final year of USPORTS football.
With the injury bug badly bitting Calgary, they were forced to recall the young receiver. Following week 4 of the CFL season, Hunchak would remain with his hometown Stampeders for the rest of the year.
The Calgary native finished his rookie season with 16 receptions on 24 targets, totalling 231 yards. While Hunchak’s totals seem minute upon first glance, the realization of tenacity and athleticism in the young Lion started to turn heads in the Stampede City.
Over the course of the 2019 season Hunchak proved to his coaches, week in and week out he has the intelligence and ball skills to compete at the professional level. Finishing the season averaging 14.5 yards per reception and 4.2 yards after catch
On completed receptions, Hunchak averaged a play result production grade of 3.68 out of 5. Meaning that he is incredibly efficient when he is targeted and has the ball in his hands, with most of his targets ending in positive play results for the Calgary offence.
Of his 16 receptions, Hunchak was able to convert 12 into a first down. One of which was a 28 yard reception on a first and 20 to help the Stampeders out of a bad field position deep in their own zone.
One head in particular that young wideout has turned is Stamps signal caller, Bo Levi Mitchell.
Mitchell has been quick to correct those who omit Hunchak from Calgary’s wide receiver conversation and has been so impressed with the second year pass-catcher that he offered for Hunchak to come live and train with him prior to the start of the 2021 training camp.
Three starting receiver spots need to be evaluated and filled before Calgary’s August 7 home-opener against the Toronto Argonauts. Colton Hunchak certainly has the opportunity in front of him to secure one of these main roles.
Here is a look at Colton Hunchak's targets from 2019