With just two practices to go by, here are a couple of observations so far as we report from training camp in Kamloops.
Careful what you wish for.
The weather up in Kamloops is summer like and the morning Friday practice was very warm. Another practice goes this afternoon at 3:00, but players will not be wearing pads for this session. We were pining for some nice weather prior to coming up and we got it but a few degrees cooler would be preferable to the players.
Moore to come.
I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen from Nick Moore in the two practices I’ve seen. He is very quick and his stride seems long and effortless out there. He is a long target and I think he’s going to have a great year. He knows that with Geroy gone, it’s his time to shine and it looks like he’s up to the challenge.
Teaching the new.
Angus Reid returned to the field this morning, but not participate except for snapping in skully drills. He was however spotted tutoring 2013 draft pick Matthew Albright. It’s sad to see the career of Reid winding down, but there’s no doubt having him as an inspiration and a teacher to the next generation is going to be a valuable asset. Reid’s replacement at the moment is 2nd year Matt Norman who I thought has a great session Friday morning. He’s taking a ton of snaps in all situations and did well in 1 on 1 drills too.
New running back Andre Dixon caught my eye in the morning session. He had some nice carries, but had my attention for his work ethic as well. At the end of every play he ran back to the huddle, showing all he’s taking this tryout seriously.
On defence Josh Bell had a nice day in the secondary, picking off a deep throw to Ernest Jackson. The defence are clearly the more in sync unit at the moment and they haven’t been shy about letting everyone know about it either.
Free agent signing Julius Williams sat out for the second straight practice. Not that big a concern and he doesn’t look badly hurt, but one of the reasons the Eskimos let him go was he fact he was often hurt.
Jabar Westerman is taking starting reps on the inside of the d-line and had a noticeably dominant morning, especially in 1 on 1 drills where on one rep he just steamrolled tackle Tavaris Jeffries.
The injury to Julius Williams has Keron Williams moving back to the outside.
Solomon Elimimian was back practicing after nursing a sore hamstring the last two practices.
Back again at 3:00pm today. Hopefully it’s a little cooler!
The 2013 CFL Canadian College Draft has come and gone and it will likely be sometime before the BC Lions see what they got from this year’s group of picks. Some are projects, some may look south of the border. Let’s take a look at the newest members of the Pride as we try and learn a bit more about them.
Hunter Steward – Offensive Lineman – Liberty University of Lynchurg, Virginia. (1st pick, 6th overall)
Heading into the draft, the Lions were looking to address their non-import offensive line depth. The club saw three of its top choices plucked by other clubs by the time their pick came up, and rather than take a risk on a player that was drawing interest from the NFL, the club went off the board somewhat to select Steward, a 6’7” 290 pound lineman from Liberty where he will return next season to complete his final year of collegiate eligibility. The Lions project that Steward; a converted defensive lineman, could develop into a tackle in the CFL, but they will have to wait until 2014 to make that assessment.
His coaches say:
• Very athletic
• Plays with a lot of energy
• Is still learning the position, but is going to be a great football player.
Seydou Junior Haidara – Wide Receiver – Laval University (2nd pick, 12th overall)
Widely regarded as one of the best receivers available in the draft, the Lions selected Haidara with their second pick of the day. At 6’1” 215 pounds, he’s a big bodied receiver who the Lions feel can play multiple positions in the offense, be it wideout, slot or tight end. Head coach Mike Benevides added that Haidara was also at the top of the class in special teams where his career will likely begin with the Lions if he impresses enough at camp, giving him a chance to hone his skills under an already solid set of receivers. If that doesn’t work out, he still has another year of CIS eligibility left.
Bo Lokombo – Linebacker – Oregon (3rd pick, 21st overall)
With their third pick the Lions certainly rolled the dice a little bit, taking Abbotsford native Bo Lokombo, who plays for a solid program in Oregon and is already drawing interest from NFL teams. It may be awhile if ever, before the Lions see Lokombo in black and orange,
Being a local product the Lions have seen a lot of Lokombo and the club simply felt that at that time in the draft, there was too much upside to pass up taking the chance.
With Adam Bighill and Solomon Elimimian in place, the Lions have time to watch the Lokombo story play out, and if it ends up in their favour, they probably drafted one of the best prospects in this year’s class. He and DL Stefan Charles (who was drafted by the Eskimos) were consistently at or near the top of the prospect rankings. Lokombo will be returning to Oregon for another season, with his sights set firmly on next year’s NFL draft when he will be eligible for selection.
Matt McGarva – Defensive Back – Windsor (4th pick, 33rd overall)
The Lions dipped into some family genes with their selection of DB Matt McGarva of Windsor. McGarva’s brother, Sean is a Community Relations coordinator for the club. With the loss of Cauchy Muamba in the off-season, an aging secondary and the departure of Byron Parker, defensive back was another area the Lions were hoping to address.
At 6’0”, 191 pounds, the Surrey native is a hometown product who lists himself on his Twitter account as an “avid BC Lions fan”, so he should be thrilled with today’s events. He was named a second team all-Canadian in 2011 after finishing the season with 48 tackles for the Lancers. He went on to earn his second-straight OUA all-star nod last fall in his final year of eligibility with Windsor, despite playing just four games.
McGarva is a fitness nut and will “cut his teeth” on special teams according to Lions DB coach Mark Washington as the club tries to groom him for a non-import spot in the secondary one day.
Matthew Albright – Offensive Lineman – Saint Mary’s (5th pick, 42nd overall)
The Lions went back to the offensive line with their 5th pick of the day; selecting 6’5” 295 pound Matthew Albright from Saint Mary’s. Winner of a Russ Jackson award in 2012, presented to the player best exemplifying the attributes of academic achievement, football skill & citizenship, Albright played tackle for the Huskies and was named a conference all-star in 2012. His offensive line with the Huskies gave up just 10 sacks last year in 8 games and averaged a league best 201.4 yards a game.
Matt Walker –Defensive Back – UBC (6TH pick, 50th overall).
The Lions stayed local with their next pick selecting UBC’s Matt Walker, who had an impressive invite camp with the Lions in April. Walker will get a taste of the CFL at training camp this season, but will likely return to UBC where at 21, he still has three years of eligibility left.
Walker played high school football in Vernon & from there went to University of Saskatchewan Huskies as a WR. He played one season with the Bratislava Monarchs in Slovakia in the spring 2011 In the fall of 2011 he came to the Okanagan Sun about 4 games in as a WR but transitioned to DB in his 2nd game. Walker played in one exhibition & 1 regular season game in 2012 for UBC before an ACL tear ended his season. He fully rehabbed the injury and is back at full speed (4.59 40 at April e-camp).
(Thanks to Heather Foster for the info on Matt).
Cameron Thorn –Defensive Lineman – Guelph (7th pick, 58th overall)
With their final pick in the Lions added a natural defensive lineman who they hope to covert to the offensive line, selecting Guelph’s Cameron Thorn. The Ontario native also possesses ability as a long-snapper, a valuable commodity in the CFL.
This past season the 6-foot-5, 290lb fourth year player appeared in eight regular season games for the Gryphons and racking up 19 tackles, and one sack. In 2012, Thorn played in the East West Bowl at Western University on the West Team.
More Draft Coverage:
- CFL.ca Draft Board
- BCLions.com Draft Coverage
- BC Lions getting good at rolling the dice. (Lowell Ullrich, The Province)
- Linden Gaydosh selected first overall (TSN.ca)
- Behind The Scenes At The CFL Draft (Kate McKenna – TSN.ca)
- Looking Ahead: Recapping the CFL Draft (TSN.ca)
A few weeks ago we brought you a story on the off-season training regimen of veteran corner back Dante Marsh. Marsh has carved out a nice career in BC, but it started because of dedication and a will to realize his dreams.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are always young players who are starting their journeys and trying to get where players like Marsh have travelled.
One of those players is 23 year old Jordan Linnen, who has played the last four seasons with Langley (formerly Surrey) Rams in the BCFC. Two years ago, Linnen caught the eye of the BC Lions and they invited him to their training camp. He even got his first taste of pro football when he dressed for an exhibition game.
Linnen fell in love with the game in the 8th grade but didn’t really feel it was something he wanted to pursue as a career until his junior year.
As every professional athlete would tell you, Linnen says he’s had to make sacrifices as he chases his dream. “I’ve had to make a lot sacrifices in various areas of my life to pursue my dream of playing professional football. One area that I have had to sacrifice most in is my personal life and being able to do things with my family and friends,” said Linnen. “Football and training both take a huge time and monetary commitment. Thankfully throughout the years and process, my family and friends have sacrificed and supported me fully.”
“I gained a lot of my knowledge and experience at several positions in the secondary. I was fortunate enough to have coaches and former players around me that I could take away little things from and apply them to my game,” says Linnen. “I was also fortunate to be able to go up against some of the best receivers and running backs in the country week in and week out. Over those four years, I also learned a lot about myself as a person with dealing with different adversities, issues and responsibilities that come from playing junior football.”
His time with the BC Lions didn’t hurt either and showed Linnen what lies ahead if he can make it to the next level. “It taught me what it took to be a professional both on and off the field as well as the discipline, structure and commitment it took to become a professional athlete,” he said. “I was fortunate to be on a team with a lot of veteran leadership especially at the defensive back position. Having that experience and knowledge alone helped me tremendously in furthering my skill set as a DB.”
Linnen says the veteran core of the Lions was more than willing to take him under their wing. “Some of the key players that helped me most were Davis Sanchez, Dante Marsh, Geroy Simon, JR LaRose and Cauchy Muamba. To this day, I still maintain great relationships with and talk frequently to these guys to continue to develop and better my craft.”
Playing in his first exhibition game was a special moment for Jordan and he got his pro debut off to a rocking start with a big hit on special teams.
“It was an unbelievable experience and one of the most memorable moments of my life. I remember a day or two before the game, thinking to myself how I envisioned my first play in the CFL. I told myself that I wanted to run down the field and make a big play on my very first play so when it happened it was a kind of surreal feeling. My heart was beating heavy and my adrenaline was going. After that play, I settled in and realized I was just playing football.”
Not only did Linnen get to dress for that game, he also got to be part of the Grey Cup win that season, with the team and on the sidelines.
“It was an unforgettable experience that most aspiring athletes only dream of and yet I was blessed to experience it at such a young age. Some pros play an entire career without being able to experience a Grey Cup. Not only the game but the entire week leading up to the game, was filled with memorable moments and experiences like media day, practices and team dinners. The game itself had an unexplainable atmosphere like nothing I had ever experienced before. I am forever humbled and grateful for being forwarded the opportunity to be a part of that team.”
Of course, Jordan would like to get another shot with the Lions, who have told him they would like to see improvement in his speed and more consistency in his playmaking. Linnen says he’s worked hard in the off-season to work on his flaws and hopes to get another invite to training camp in June. He says other CFL teams have shown some interest but doesn’t know if anything will come of it.
Despite how hard he has worked, Linnen knows there are no guarantees and he plans to finish out his remaining years of CIS eligibility if no offers come his way.
Football teaches young people so many great values in life; not only about the game, but about hard work, discipline and teamwork. Whether Jordan Linnen gets to where he dreams to be or not has yet to be determined, but the qualities football has instilled in him will be with him through the rest of his life.
Our thanks to Jordan for taking the time to speak to us! You can follow his football journeys on Twitter, @WhoIsJLinnen
Jim Mullin – Special to BCLionsDen.ca
Barring a last second shift, BC is not in the plans for Kirby Fabien but Plan B and Plan C is.
The planned return of Fabien, the seventh overall pick by the Lions, to the Canada West is not going down well in Lions headquarters.
Only a surprise contract counter offer Hamilton’s 13th overall pick OL Carson Rockhill could derail destined to return to the foothills city to start and to finish his degree.
Drew Edwards in the Hamilton Spectator reported late last week that linebacker Frederic Plesius was returning to the Laval Rouge et Or. Richard Boutin of Le Journal de Quebec reported that two-time Metras Award winner DE Arnaud Gascon-Nadon will follow his teammate’s lead, staying in Quebec City rather than signing in Hamilton.
University of Calgary head coach Blake Nill and Laval Rouge et Or head coach Glen Constantin are good friends. So much in fact they are in contact with each other on a regular basis. When you read the various reports on these players who have declared their return to the CIS, the one thing they share in common is their desire to obtain their degree while playing football.
Is it possible that Constantin and Nill consulted each other on talking points so they could retain their best talent? One has to ask that question when you see the results of four key players who could seriously change expectations for those teams in the Canada West and the RSEQ.
Both coaches are central in these player’s lives and have their ears.
Offensive lineman and former Dino Mark DeWit played two seasons in Toronto and two in Hamilton and managed to take classes in the winter semester to finish his degree while playing. I’d hazard a guess that Nill wasn’t using that example when in dialogue with Fabien or Rockhill, or for that matter last year when running back Matt Walter stated before the draft that he was returning for his fifth year.
That being said a fourth or fifth year player isn`t a kid and should be able to employ their own critical thinking.
What is also at play is the question of development. Many predicted the elimination of the NFL option window would hurt CFL recruitment in the United States. Not surprisingly, the CIS side of the equation was taken for granted.
In the case Plesius, the 24 year-old hopes he can get another shot at an NFL camp and the one-plus-one option year contract would stand in the way of another NFL look.
Plesius took correspondence courses this winter to get the 18 credits needed to qualify academically for the RSEQ if he could not catch on in the NFL.
He told Boutin, “It was good advice from Glen(Constantin), he said. Always have a plan B and evenC. ”
There’s that secondary plan again, which is not good news in so far as the CFL is concerned. With expanded NFL rosters the dream remains alive for raw CIS talent to develop stateside.
Something similar could be said of Fabien who at 21, may have been reminded of the path Dan Federkeil took from the U of C to a four-year NFL career with the Indianapolis Colts which included a Super Bowl ring. Fabien’s agent is Washington, D.C’s Johnathon Hardaway who represents Concordia grad and Kansas City Chief Cory Greenwood along with Matt O’Donnell of Queen’s who signed a two-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Rockhill still has two years of eligibility left, so the extra eight to possibly 12 starts won’t hurt his development.
If the scholarship doors are ever forced open in the CIS for a limited number of full-rides, Canadian university players will have another card to play in contract negotiations with CFL teams. While it is not a crisis, perhaps the time has come where the CIS and CFL should seriously look at working on a more integrated player development system.
Jim Mullin is a Vancouver-based broadcaster. He served as the Vancouver Director of the 47th Vanier Cup played at BC Place Stadium last November and provided the play-by-play of the game for TSN Radio. He also serves as chair of the Amateur Sub-committee for the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, and serves as the British Columbia representative for the CFHOF. Jim’s thoughts on CIS football will periodically appear in our new Eye on the CIS feature. Check out more of Jim’s pieces on his blog, “The Edmonton Eskimos ruined my childhood.“