Season Preview: Football

Coach Steve Snyder looks to improve the Gaels’ record and build on depth heading into the season

Head Coach Steve Snyder is leading his Gaels into another season of football.
Photo supplied by Athletics and Recreation

After a year without stepping on the gridiron, Queen’s Football head coach Steve Snyder has a deceptively simple goal in mind for this year. 

“Our first goal is to be the most respected team on campus and in the community.” 

Now in his third year of coaching the Gaels, Snyder is looking to have a successful season, and bring home the Yates Cup—the national title—in the process. 

After a 2019-20 season that saw the Gaels go 3-5, however, winning a national championship won’t be easy. Queen’s offense and defense were ranked 10th and seventh in the OUA in 2019, respectively, and their dismal record didn’t garner them a playoff berth to be in the running for a provincial or national title.

Despite all of this, Snyder has a clear view of where the team needs to improve to be a contender.

“We want to be a better tackling team than we were in 2019, and our staff has worked hard to break down tackling analytically and then create a new tackling system within our team,” Snyder explained in an interview with The Journal.

His analytical approach to tackling is one that Snyder has tried to carry over into other phases of the team’s repertoire as well. The Gael’s running game, highlighted by Rasheed Tucker—one of the top running backs in U Sports—has been another key focus of the coaching staff over the past 15 months.

“The run game always starts with the offensive line. We’ve made it very clear we’re going to build our football program around our offensive line, so we’ve recruited that way. It’s one of our biggest units,” Snyder said.

When asked about Tucker specifically, Snyder highlighted his off-field presence before discussing his on-field role. 

“Rasheed Tucker is a tremendous young man, first and foremost, off the field […] and then when he steps on the field in pads, he’s a special athlete. I think he’s set to have a big breakout year, for sure.”

That systematic approach should pay dividends with Snyder’s other challenge: coaching a team of that hasn’t played together since October 2019. Snyder and his staff have been tasked with integrating two classes of new players into an experienced squad on both sides of the ball—as starters and off-the-bench pieces. 

“There will certainly be a lot of new faces and names jumping out there for fans […] these are new first and second year guys that haven’t played […] and are really looking forward to wearing the tricolour.”

The gameday experience will also be a critical feature for the team as well, although the pandemic has significantly modified the league’s operations. Due to the ongoing concerns around health and safety, Ontario University Athletics has altered schedules to lessen out-of-conference play.

When asked if it would affect his planning for the upcoming season, Coach Snyder conceded that this change has altered his mindset, but only slightly.

 “The season’s going to be a different layout with six regular season games as opposed to eight. The schedule is much more regional than we’re used to. We’re looking forward to that challenge.”

Referencing the history of the program, Snyder recalled the past size of crowds at Richardson Stadium during homecoming games as his aim for the future.

“We want to wear all gold, run out at Richardson Stadium in front of our alumni, our season-ticket holders, young children, and older community members that have been attending games for so long. That is a big part of what we do here.”

The Queen’s Gaels will open their season against the Carleton Ravens in Ottawa on Sept. 18. The Gael’s first home game of the season—against the Ottawa Gee-Gees—will take place a week later, on Sept. 25.

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