Training Camp is now less than a week away. If I had any kind of budget this is where I would have a gospel choir singing Alleluia. Unfortunately, such choirs apparently don't accept leftover chinese food and Canadian Tire money as payment so you have to settle for me yelling ALLELUIA! Football will soon be back!
To get prepped for Training Camp I will be doing some positional previews looking at the battles to keep an eye on and the newcomers to watch. Today we start with the offense.
Darian Durant will retake his rightful place under centre and hopefully stay there for far longer than he has for the past two seasons. It will certainly be worth watching how he adjusts to a new offensive scheme. Though if you look at his career, adjusting to a new OC has pretty much been a yearly event for him. The more interesting battle will be for the back-up role. Even if you look back on Durant's last full season in 2013, we still needed our back-up to step in for a game or two. So while I don't expect them to play much, odds are good whoever wins the back-up role will see some time. Right now its a battle between the returning Brett Smith and newcomer BJ Coleman (though I assume 1 or 2 more QBs will be at training camp). Smith was an exciting player last season but he has some flaws in his game that it would take a last call level of drunkenness to completely over look. He will need to show he has progressed as a QB, otherwise I could see Coleman as the guy. He certainly got some mini-camp hype.
For me this is one of the more compelling battles to watch. I assume Kendial Lawrence will be the back-up RB/kick returner/Corey Holmes-type utility guy. But there is still a void at the starter spot and the battle is wide open. One could argue that Curtis Steele is the guy to beat but I have said many times that I don't think he can be an every down back.The guys for me to watch are Malcolm Cyrus and Devrin Young.
Certain to be the most talked about battle in the coming weeks... said no one ever. Spencer Moore likely keeps his spot (mostly because there is no other competition) and I'm okay with that because I think Moore is a good player in the roles he is asked to fill. I'll include Matt Walter here though he will likely be part fullback part back-up RB.
Brendon LaBatte will play left guard... that is the only sure thing. There was going to be two sure things, the other being Bruce Campbell lining up at left tackle but his sudden retirement threw us into borderline panic mode. Odds are good that Clark and Best keep their starting spots along the interior but that is not a guarantee with guys like Andrew Jones, Aaron Picton and possibly Josiah St John around. I have even mused that Jarriel King at guard is a possibility (albeit a very unlikely one). The battle for both tackle spots will be the one to watch. Very unlikely that St John will be ready to start in year one so that leaves 6 imports competing for 2 spots (including Xavier Fulton who we will be brining back). I have Thaddeus Coleman and King as the leading candidates but would honestly not rule anyone out. One guy I will be watching is Tre'Von Armstead. He's got a troubled past including allegations of sexual assault and dismissal from Baylor for violating team rules. At 6'7 311 lbs he's got the size (though oddly enough was used as a Tight End at Baylor prior to his dismissal).
In terms of Canadian WRs, things look pretty set. We have Bagg, Demski and Chambers with Haidara for depth. Only thing to really watch here is if Chris Jones can turn draft pick Joshua Stanford into someone who once again cares about football. But on the import side of things (I'm crusty and resistant to change so don't expect me to adopt the "international" terminology any time soon), its anything but set. You can pencil John Chiles in among the starters. I would also say that another spot is Naaman Roosevelt's to lose. It will be nice to see him in a training camp where he is not being overtly repressed in favour of over the hill veterans. The retirements of Kelley and Price open some huge opportunities for new recruits. Clarence Denmark likely starts the season among the starters at least until a new recruit unseats him. Given his size (and Jones' not so secret love of tall people), Victor Dean Jr will be a guy to watch. I also expect another couple receivers to join the training camp roster.