Grey Cup champion Stamps trying for repeat
Wally Buono is always one to speak his mind.
Asked how his defending Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders will fare with the powerful Winnipeg Blue Bombers back into the CFL West Division, Buono said: "I don't want to be a goof when I say this, but we could finish first or fifth."
The Stampeders struggled to a mediocre 8-10-0-1 mark in 2001, only to salvage the season with a 27-19 upset win over Winnipeg in the 89th Grey Cup at Montreal's Olympic Stadium.
But Buono, the Stampeders head coach and general manager, is realistic about Calgary's chances because he's had to replace 16 players.
"You can always replace the production and you can always replace the physical part, but what's hard to replace about a veteran is the continuity and chemistry and the leadership," he said.
Calgary's defence has been decimated by defections and suspensions.
Ray Jacobs signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Clinton Wayne went to the expansion Ottawa Renegades, Marc Pilon is a member of the Edmonton Eskimos and James Cotton joined the Buffalo Bills.
Anthony Prior was lured to the B.C. Lions, Ricky Bell and Kelly Lochbaum were grabbed by Ottawa in the expansion draft and Otis Floyd Jr. signed with Washington Redskins.
Defensive tackle Joe Fleming was suspended for failing to report to training camp on time.
On offence, both starting slotbacks are gone.
Marc Boerigter caught on with the Kansas City Chiefs and Vince Danielsen retired.
Incumbent backup quarterbacks Ben Sankey and Pat Barnes left for the Houston Texans and Blue Bombers, respectively.
Running backs Jamal Robertson signed with the San Francisco 49ers while Antonio Warren joined the New York Giants.
Thankfully, Grey Cup MVP Marcus Crandell is still the signal caller.
He completed 239 of 386 passes for 3,407 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
Kevin Feterik, the son of the new Stampeders owner Michael Feterik, is Crandell's backup.
As always, Kelvin Anderson will start at running back.
He had 1,383 rushing yards and 433 receiving yards in 2001. Sirr Parker out of Texas A&M and Raymonn Adams from Doane College round out the running backs.
Kamau Peterson is being pushed at one receiver spot by East Carolina's Channon.
Don Blair, the former University of Calgary star, is a lock as the other wideout after successful stints with the B.C. Lions and Edmonton Eskimos. However, he will start the season on the injured list.
Travis Moore, who snared 78 passes for 1,298 yards and six TDs last season, remains at slotback.
Also making noise is ex-Detroit Lions receiver Versie Gaddis.
The offensive line is seasoned and solid with Jamie Crysdale at centre, Jay McNeil and David Heasman at guard and Fred Childress and Thomas Rayam at tackle.
The big battle spot is at defensive line.
If Fleming doesn't return, the lone veteran will be Jeff Traversy.
One of several players will have to grab the other defensive tackle spot, including Keith Jackson, who played for B.C. last year, rookie Reggie Reddick, and former Hamilton Tiger-Cat Aaron Williams.
The ends will either be Anwar Stewart, who appeared in one game last year, or rookies Terrel Black, Corey Terry and Anthony Watson.
Two-thirds of the linebacking core returns with 14-year veteran Alondra Johnson in the middle and Wille Fells alongside.
The other could be Teddy Sims, who played for Steve Spurrier at Florida.
Barring the unexpected, the secondary will be comprised of cornerbacks William Fields and Da'shann Austin, defensive halfbacks Joe Barnes and Kelly Malveaux plus safety Greg Frers.
Mark McLoughlin is the placekicker and Duncan O'Mahony, the punter.