While the performance of UBC Thunderbirds Football might not have been impressive last season, Blake Nill, the team’s new head coach, hopes to improve next season with the arrival of former Penn State quarterback Michael O’Connor.
Standing at 6’5 and weighing at 230 lbs., O’Connor, age 19, is an Ottawa native who spent his high school years playing football in the United States. He initially played for Baylor School in Tennessee during his junior season, and later attended IMG Academy in Florida. His most impressive season was in 2013, where he threw 1804 yards and 18 touchdowns in 10 games to lead IMG to an 8-2 record.
O’Connor made the decision to play as quarterback for Penn State last year after having received multiple early scholarships to various NCAA institutions. However, he was a redshirt freshman last season and, therefore, did not play. This means that O’Connor will have a full five-year eligibility with the Thunderbirds.
If O’Connor’s performance during the training sessions meets the team’s expectations, said Nill, he’ll be the starting quarterback for the Thunderbirds next season.
“He is a competitor and he’s good enough to play the game at this level. We’re just looking for him to play our quarterback position better for this team, whether it’s him playing the game or [him forcing] others to play better,” said Nill.
Last season, UBC finished with a record of 2-6, placing sixth in the Canada West conference and missing the playoffs for the sixth time since 2007.
Nill became the head coach for Thunderbirds football back in December, following the dismissal of previous head coach Shawn Olson. Nill has been a head coach in CIS football since 1998 and has seven Vanier Cup games under his belt. With the football season beginning in September, Nill is looking to enhance the team’s overall performance by all means possible.
“Each and every position on this team has to improve,” said Nill. “My goal in the offseason here is to try to motivate the young men to move more and more into a level of [competitiveness].”
Last season, T-Bird quarterbacks managed a combined total of 1,765 passing yards, in comparison to the 2462 yards by their opponents. This same pattern also applied to other areas of the Thunderbirds’ offensive play, including both rushing and receiving yardage.
Carson Williams, starting quarterback for the Thunderbirds last season, will not be returning to the team due to the completion of his five-year eligibility. Therefore, O’Connor should slot in as first-string QB alongside teammates Greg Bowcott and Trevor Casey.