TORONTO — Rupert Butcher stole the spotlight at the CFL combine Sunday.
The six-foot-five, 327-pound Western Mustangs defensive lineman was dominant in the 1-on-1 competition at Varsity Stadium. Butcher was nearly unblockable on the pass rush, effectively using his size and strength to push opposing offensive lineman back at will.
But the London, Ont., native was also light on his feet and showed good lateral movement.
"I think it was important to show I could do a great pass rush and move quickly," the articulate philosophy major said. "The biggest thing for a guy my size was to show he can move and have the agility to play in the CFL because the CFL is mostly pass rush.
"The film the coaches saw on me (before combine) didn’t have a lot of pass rush. Here you have the best offensive linemen in the country and I showed I could play with them."
Butcher was among 51 players at the combine, but only three of the top-10 ranked draft prospects attended. Among those missing were defensive linemen David Onyemata of Manitoba (No. 2), Mehdi Abdesmad of Boston College (No. 4), Trent Corney of Virginia (No.8) and No. 10 Mitchell Winters of Miami (Ohio).
With more opportunities to shine, Butcher — who wasn’t on the CFL scouting bureau’s top-20 prospects list in December — solidified his draft stock.
"He helped himself, there’s no question about that," said Toronto Argonauts GM Jim Barker. "He was hard to block and showed good quickness."
Chris Jones, the head coach/GM of the Saskatchewan Roughriders — who pick first overall in the May 10 draft — agreed.
"He had a really good day," Jones said. "I thought he was a big, athletic kid with tremendous size.
"I think the potential is there."
Butcher could also land in the CFL as an offensive lineman as both Saskatchewan and the Ottawa Redblacks mentioned that possibility to him. Butcher would prefer remaining on defence — and dropping 20-25 pounds to do so — but wouldn’t discount making the switch.
"I’d be a little disappointed because I’ve always wanted to play defensive line, that’s where my heart is at," he said. "But if that was my only option to keep playing, I would."
Laval guard Charles Vaillancourt, at No. 6, was the highest-ranked prospect at the combine. The six-foot-four, 315-pound native of Coaticook, Que., was looking forward to the 1-on-1 competition after being unhappy with his 24 reps in the bench press Saturday.
"I wanted to show how strong I am," he said. "I was a little disappointed with my bench press but (Sunday) I think I showed everybody I am still a very strong guy."
Barker didn’t think Vaillancourt did anything this weekend to hurt his draft status.
"He came in as the top guy and showed he’s a top guy," Barker said. "He blocked very well, was balanced and patient."
Vaillancourt praised Butcher but was disappointed Onyemata wasn’t present. On Monday, Onyemata will hold his pro day — the first Bison player to do so — in Winnipeg with 12-16 NFL scouts expected to attend.
"He (Rupert) is a big guy who’s hard to move," Vaillancourt said. "I wish I would’ve been able to compete with David because he’s one of the best and I’d love to be able to compare myself to him.
"He beat me last year at the East West Bowl (CIS all-star game) and I wanted to beat him this weekend but I wish him the best of luck. Hopefully we’ll see each other on the field sometime."
Barker felt Calgary running back Mercer Timmis also improved his draft stock Sunday. Timmis, ranked No. 7 on the December list, had 666 rushing yards and 10 TDs in six regular-season games last season but Barker felt he but showed potential in blocking drills.
"It was kind of an important day for him because at Calgary he ran the ball a lot but he showed he can block," Barker said. "He’s a guy who I think helped himself."
Jones also believes the six-foot-one, 220-pound Timmis can be a better blocker.
"He’s a willing blocker," Jones said. "Technique-wise he’s got some things to work on but from talking to the kid he’s going to work hard at it and it’s going to matter to him.
"He does have the ability in space to run the football and has done some very good things but again he’s a willing blocker at least."
Timmis, of Burlington, Ont., certainly has the genetics to become a complete running back. His late great-grandfather and grandfather, both named Brian Timmis, were former CFL players.
"It (blocking) is definitely something I got asked about in all my interviews," he said. "I think I did (well) some reps but I wasn’t consistent enough.
"It wasn’t due to a lack of effort or aggression. I just need to calm down and work some technique a bit more."