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  • Writer's pictureMarshall Ferguson

A Training Camp Wish For Every CFL Team

I’ll be honest. My mind is racing.

It happens every year when training camps open and I go from tracking the combine and draft to full on Canadian Football League mode, where my head starts spinning with the rapid increase in coverage of each team.

A receiver from Mount Allison in Malik Richards, who I spent all winter looking at, gets drafted by the Bombers only to be cut two days in with an injury, but he’s quickly signed to Edmonton where Trevor Harris and his new-look offence are preparing to challenge for the West crown against Bo Levi, who is back after dancing with the NFL, but Bo doesn’t have the same defence as a number of starters and the Stamps defensive coordinator DeVone Claybrooks have moved West to BC, where Mike Reilly is the story.

On and on and on it goes. The web weaved between these nine teams is incredible this time of year with a million connections and even more storylines that come from them.

In my frantic state of trying to stay above water and understand what’s happening across the league I often find myself day dreaming about what COULD be. In these moments of semi-consciousness – likely caused by early morning radio alarms – I have an early season wish list of one thing I’d love to see from each CFL team in 2019.

BC – A Week 1 message sender from Reilly to Burnham

The CFL season is a marathon, but players are rarely aware of that in Week 1 and are so fired up by the crowd and environment of a CFL game day being back that the opening four quarters of football can supply spectacular results.

My wish for the BC Lions is to get a Week 1 bomb or several well-timed and on target connections between Mike Reilly and new best friend Bryan Burnham that sends a message to the rest of the CFL that the BC Lions of 2019 are not a science experiment, they’re for real.

EDM – DaVaris goes wild

Ever since he arrived in Calgary I have always admired from afar the game of DeVaris Daniels. With Trevor Harris at the helm I can see a season that consists of plenty of media attention for Greg Ellingson, a breakout year for Natay Adjei and maybe even the emergence of a Duke Williams replacement in Mississippi Gulf Coast junior college’s Torrance Gibson – all 6-foot-5, 225 pounds of him.

What I would really love to see is Daniels emerge through all those options and a ground game featuring CJ Gable to become one of the CFL’s most highly respected pass catchers. I think he can do it based on his current surroundings.

CGY – Wiggan becomes the BEAST I know him to be, and finally gets the credit for it

I played against Derek Wiggan in university. Despite being one of the nicest people you’ll ever cross paths with, he also happens to be a monster the likes of few recent U SPORTS defensive tackles. With a drastically altered front seven for the reigning champs I’d love to see Wiggan play at a higher level than ever and get the stats that finally show the impact he’s had in Calgary for the last couple seasons as a steady national defensive tackle.

SSK – Elimimian returns to form, Powell demands the rock

For Elimimian the playoff loss in Hamilton last November and subsequent Lions release while dealing with CBA negotiations was a rough stretch. Here’s hoping one of the truly GREAT recent CFLers returns to form in Regina and helps solidify the middle of the Green Riders defence along with a re-shaped interior defensive line.

As for Powell, when healthy he plays second fiddle to only Winnipeg’s Andrew Harris in usage rate over the past couple seasons. In what could be a run heavy Riders offence he could flourish and be asked to do a lot. Surely the reason Saskatchewan targeted him so highly in February’s free agency period.

WPG – Geoff Gray becomes the face of the franchise

Geoff Gray is for real. Size, speed, hands, ability to anchor and athleticism to get out in space. Like Hamilton’s Brandon Revenberg his style of game almost reminds you of a throwback physical downhill blocker that used to dominate previous eras consistently.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Gray play at the University of Manitoba while scouting the CFL Draft and couldn’t have been happier to see him land back in Winnipeg. Here’s hoping he not only becomes a starter but a long term one that fans identify with and celebrate for a long time to come.

Winnipeg loves their big men, why not Gray.. right Walby!?

HAM – A true in-line tight end

In the CFL we have tight ends..

But they’re not really tight ends in the status quo sense. They’re offensive lineman brought in as an extra big body in pass protection or the point of attack on running plays. They’re part of jumbo packages or they are fullbacks tasked with running to the flats or check downs.

The modern CFL game does not embrace the tight end running a traditional route tree and owning the middle of the field.

I NEED this in my life. It creates a much more diverse offensive game stretching the defence in unique ways. In Hamilton the 2019 10th overall draft pick from York Nicola Kalinic has the size and skill set to make it happen.

Hamilton. Please make it happen. I’m begging you. Change the game for everyone’s football loving enjoyment.

TOR – Full house revival?

This was an idea I cooked up back in the dead of winter. About six hours after doing our annual free agency show on TSN 1150 Hamilton I came home to shovel snow and began thinking about trends of the day.

Toronto signed back Brandon Burks early then signed Hamilton’s Mercer Timmis, BC’s Chris Rainey and Tyrell Sutton not to mention the presence of James Wilder Jr.

Add in dynamic running ability of QB Brandon Bridge and you get a perfect recipe for some full house misdirection and creativity in the play action passing game.

Just like Hamilton, please Toronto.. We need this.

OTT – Sinopoli has a great season.. at QB?!

Okay, okay, I know he’s not going to play quarterback. Wishful thinking on that one, but can I at least ask for a couple of double passes or ways to show of Sinopoli’s legendary U SPORTS arm?

Brad was incredible last year, and after Ottawa lost 60 per cent of their 2018 targets in free agency (Powell, Ellingson, Spencer) I just hope Sinopoli has a great season again to prove he can not only be an elite national receiver but the face of a franchise.

It’s a lot easier to do that if you let him play quarterback, just saying. Sorry, sorry, fine I’ll give it up.. for now.

MTL – All Canadian QB pre-season game.. and maybe more

This dream is either more realistic or more far fetched than Sinopoli’s passing wish, depending on how you feel about Laval’s Hugo Richard and Western’s Chris Merchant.

To me both deserve the chance to show they belong and I hope that means meaningful reps in a pre-season game. If it goes well in that moment who says the Alouettes don’t dress one of the two, making the Als a tweaked ankle or two from playing one of these talented passers?

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