Regina RamsLast season, the University of Regina Rams finished a disappointing fifth in Canada West with a 2W-6L record. Only the Alberta Golden Bears, who were winless, finished below them. It’s not that the Rams were projected to be an elite team, but in 2012 they finished second with a 6W-2L record, so more was likely expected.

In 2012, of course, Marc Mueller was the QB. He completed his CIS eligibility after that season, and the Rams turned to Cayman Shutter who has family roots in Saskatchewan, but grew up in Hawaii, where he starred at the high school level and even spent time at the University of Hawaii who play at the NCAA Division I level.

Working with a veteran receiving corps Shutter threw for an average of 346 yards per game in 2013. That’s an impressive total, but his completion rate was only 57 per cent. He also threw more interceptions than TD passes by a 13 to 11 margin. Heading into his final season with the Rams, Shutter will need to be a bit more consistent. Although, in fairness, the team was hit hard by injuries last year.

As for this season, the receiving corps remains strong, and the linebackers and defensive backs are solid too. There’s a bit of rebuild underway on the offensive and defensive line, however, and running back is also a question mark. Fifth year RB Dillon Dawson is penciled in as the starter, but the Rams are anxious to see how recruit Atlee Simon from Thom Collegiate does. If they could find better balance on offence, it would help them improve on last year’s performance.

In mid-August, long-time head coach Frank McCrystal, who has been involved with the Rams as a player, assistant coach and head coach since the early 1970s, announced he would be stepping down at the end of the season. Will that spur the team on? It might. Also working in the Rams favour is a relatively weak schedule with only two games against perennial powerhouses the University of Calgary Dinos (in Calgary on Oct. 4) and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies (at Mosaic Stadium on Sept. 27).

To fill out their eight game schedule, the Rams play home and homes against the Golden Bears, the University of Manitoba Bisons and the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. It’s not that the latter two teams are soup cans, but they typically aren’t as strong as the Dinos and Huskies. So only playing them once each qualifies as a break for the Rams.

Anyway, the Rams open the 2014 Canada West season with a game tonight at Mosaic Stadium against the UBC Thunderbirds. Then they’ll be on the road against the Bisons (Sept. 12) and Golden Bears (Sept. 20) before returning home to face the Huskies. Game time is 7 p.m., and tickets are adults $20, youth under 18 $7.50, pre-school $2, while U of R students with ID are free.