CFL West Division: Training camp preview | Football | CBC Sports

CFLCFL West Division: Training camp preview

Posted: Monday, June 3, 2013 | 12:01 PM

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Travis Lulay (14) of the B.C. Lions threw for 4,231 yards and led all CFL quarterbacks with 477 rushing yards last season. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press) Travis Lulay (14) of the B.C. Lions threw for 4,231 yards and led all CFL quarterbacks with 477 rushing yards last season. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

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The focus out west at CFL training camps is on quarterbacks, their coaches and who they will wind up throwing to.

The story out west in training camp is about quarterbacks, their coaches and who they might throw to.

You know, like every June.

At the same time, there are some intriguing storylines as veterans move from one club to another, carrying high hopes and bigger contracts with them.

B.C. Lions

2012: 13-5, 1st
Lost West final to Calgary

Pre-season:
June 14 @ Calgary
June 21 vs. Edmonton

Can you imagine the first conversation QB Chris Hart had when he arrived at camp?

"Wow, big field. What's that white line way over there?"
"Way over where?"
"That one way, way over there, like, on the next field?"
"That's the far sideline."
"Uh ... really?"

OK, it's the same old joke, but it has to be said that one of the four candidates vying to back up starter Travis Lulay last played for the Tampa Storm in indoor football and was found at a Florida tryout camp.

It also has to be said that when Lions general manager Wally Buono brings in a new pivot, he's usually seen something many others haven't.

Buono knows quarterbacks and that's going to be key for head coach Mike Benevides who, entering his sophomore season, has to find a second- and third-string QB who can step in if Lulay can't go, as happened for a stretch last season.

Lulay will get most of the reps in camp, but don't expect to see a lot of him in exhibition games as the Lions do what most clubs do -- keep him out of harm's way as much as possible.

Joey Elliott spent three years in Winnipeg before being released and is top of the list for the job. In 2012, the Purdue grad had a 60 per cent completion rate but threw way too many picks (12).

Bet he doesn't do that in B.C.

Thomas DeMarco, who came from Nowheresville (actually Old Dominion) last season will likely be No. 3, with Hart in the mix.

There has been much talk about how to replace grizzled vets Geroy Simon (Saskatchewan) and Arland Bruce III (Montreal), but it says here that's a waste of concern. The Lions are so deep in catchers that it's not going to be a problem.

The real place to watch this month is in the defensive backfield, especially with all-everything Korey Banks switching to linebacker -- that hybrid LB/DB spot they play now across the land -- and with Byron Parker released. Holes to fill.

Calgary Stampeders

2012: 12-6, 2nd
Lost Grey Cup to Toronto

Pre-season:
June 14 vs. B.C.
June 20 @ Saskatchewan

You won't get to see much of starting QB Drew Tate who absolutely, positively (we would never make this up) did not have a concussion at the end of last season, but will be carefully brought along in June.

Kevin Glenn, who did so well filling in for Tate last season but showed his age in the Grey Cup game, is back, along with Bo Levi Mitchell, and they'll be interesting to watch in the pre-season.

The No. 2 and 3 spots could actually reverse if Stampeders head coach/GM Jon Hufnagel decides it's time to push the youngster forward.

Speaking of concussions we aren't talking about, Dan Federkeil, the Canadian offensive lineman who played four years in the NFL and retired with headaches in 2009, has been cleared for action again, so he's brought his 6-foot-6, 290-pound frame to camp for one more try.

Spencer Wilson, back to health, is another to watch along the O-line this month.

Also, keep an eye on the receiving battle because, with Romby Bryant gone to Toronto, Arjei Franklin retired and Johnny (No Luck) Forzani out after ankle surgery, there's some jobs open there.

Hufnagel has put pressure on Anthony Parker (3rd year, out most of last with injury) to step up and grab a job.

Defensive coordinator Rick Campbell is playing with some interchangeable parts he'd like to assess, including lineman Stevie Baggs, who played one game for Calgary last year and wants more, and tackle Etienne Legare, in from Edmonton.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

2012: 8-10, 3rd
Lost West semifinal to Calgary

Pre-season:
June 14 @ Edmonton
June 20 vs. Calgary

Welcome to the annual presentation of Can George Cortez turn quarterback (Fill in the Blank) into the type of pivot everyone thinks he can be?

After roaring success with QB Henry Burris at Hamilton last season while the head coach, Cortez is now the offensive co-ordinator in Regina, where Darian Durant is the new project.

Durant is a thoroughly professional veteran yet inconsistent at the wrong times and the coach is the guru who can fix that.

Nothing is more important this June.

However, this is also (drum roll please) Grey Cup Hosting Year and that means ridiculous pressure to play in it this season, something that can negatively affect long-term personnel decisions.

To that end, Roughriders head coach Corey Chamblin has a bunch of veteran -- or over the hill, depending how you see it -- new talent either traded in or signed as free agents to watch as the month goes by.

There's 37-year-old Geroy Simon, merely one of the greatest CFL receivers ever, Rickey Foley from Toronto and Jermaine McElveen from Hamilton along the DL, Rey Williams at LB, Dwight Anderson and Weldon Brown at DB.

Unlike the rest of the group, McElveen and Brown are not 30 yet.

Just this past weekend, Regina welcomed back former line star John Chick, back from three years in the NFL -- the last two with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Riders still have to find a kick returner and, for gosh sakes, keep receiver Rob Bagg healthy somehow (try bubble wrap).

It says here this is going to be the most interesting club to watch through camp and pre-season.

Edmonton Eskimos
 
2012: 7-11, 4th
Lost East semifinal to Toronto

Pre-season:
June 14 vs. Saskatchewan
June 21 @ B.C.

Ed Hervey, Edmonton's new GM, presents a different QB story for this training camp than the one his predecessor, Eric Tillman, did in 2012.

Then, Steven Jyles had been thrust into the media spotlight as the replacement for Ricky Ray, who was traded to the Toronto Argonauts.

Jyles and Tillman are gone.

Now, June will be a chance to peer out and thoughtfully compare the attributes of two contenders for starting pivot: Matt Nichols and Mike Reilly.

Last time we saw Nichols, he was being carried off the field at Toronto's Rogers Centre in agony, having suffered a severe -- and strangely fascinating -- dislocation of the ankle in a 42-26 (crossover) playoff loss to the Argonauts.

Nichols played well in the latter stages of the season, however.

Reilly, meanwhile, has been the backup in the B.C. quarterback factory for three years and was traded in to give Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed some real choice.

While that's going on, the offensive line is being rebuilt to ensure neither of the young signal callers spends much of the season staring at the northern Alberta sky from flat on their backs.

They've brought in new offensive line coach Kris Sweet from Saskatchewan (previously with Calgary) to do it. Good luck, Kris.

A couple of interesting tales can be found out at receiver, where Adarius Bowman (1,153 yards in 2011) comes back after missing 15 games last year with a knee injury, and Marcus Henry, who looked good when he got back in Week 10 of 2012, can be a key.

And Odell Willis tries to regain his swagger after a down year on the D-Line with the Riders, not to mention justifying that extra $10,000 Edmonton paid in tampering fines.

This is a veteran group, so much so that with just 15 freshman around, they cancelled rookie camp and went straight to the main gathering.

Follow Malcolm Kelly on Twitter @sportsnag

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