Donnie-O a force

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:00 PM ET

He's 289 pounds of quiet, Winnipeg-born and soft-spoken.

But former U of M Bison Donnie Oramasionwu is making some noise at Blue Bomber training camp.

I thought Donnie-O was more than just noticeable in the first pre-season game against the Montreal Alouettes rookies last week, and I wasn't the only one.

"He had a real good camp," head coach Paul LaPolice confirmed, Friday. "And he really played well last week. He's a force in the middle."

Coach LaPo doesn't usually call people "a force," or anything that could be seen as hyperbole. Generally you get, "he's coming along" or "he's improving but still has a lot to learn," when it comes to young players.

But the just-turned-24 Oramasionwu, entering his second CFL season, has been so impressive the coaching staff is leaving him at home this weekend.

This is significant.

Others not making the trip to Hamilton include grizzled vets Doug Brown and Ike Charlton, along with starting defensive ends Phillip Hunt and Odell Willis.

In other words, the coaches have seen enough of Donnie-O to know he's got a place on this team.

The question is, what's his place?

Until now, we've assumed he'd simply be a backup defensive tackle.

But it turns out the coaches have toyed with the idea of using Oramasionwu and Brown as twin Canadian towers, which would be a huge ratio-breaker and free up an import to start at, say, receiver.

"Yeah, that's one scenario," LaPolice said, quickly pointing out he toys with every possible scenario.

Ask Donnie-O about all this import/non-import talk, and he brushes it aside the way he did Montreal's O-line last weekend.

"I know the league looks a lot (at) imports and non-imports," he said. "When I see guys, it doesn't matter to me if you're an import or not. I try to compete with everybody."

Well, almost everybody.

"I know Doug's the man," Oramasionwu said. "He doesn't make many mistakes. He's Doug Brown. I mean, he's an all-star. You talk about imports and non-imports, there's nobody better than him at that position.

"But at that other spot, who knows what can happen?"

Who knows, indeed.

Maybe some day a Winnipegger quietly grabs it.

"That's the goal," he said. "I know I'm going to start at some point. You owe it to yourself to think that way."

It turns out he's not the only one.

QB LIP SERVICE?: Funny how last year's coach couldn't anoint his starting quarterback soon enough, while this year's is going to wait until the last minute.

Asked if Steven Jyles still had a shot at the job, coach LaPo said, yup, absolutely, suggesting Sunday's game in Hamilton could decide it.

Technically, I guess he's right.

If Buck Pierce goes down, the job defers to Jyles.

Otherwise, I'd say Pierce has already shown he should get the call when the Ticats snarl into town for the season opener, July 2.

Having said that, it'd be interesting to see what happens if Jyles lights it up against the Ticats this weekend, and Pierce is just so-so.

SHOWING WHO'S BOSS: Remember how old CFL boss Don Matthews, when he joined a new team, always seemed to cut a popular veteran just to show everybody the new sheriff was in town?

Don't expect any "message" cuts from the coach LaPo/GM Joe Mack regime.

"Mr. Mack and myself would never just make a change so everybody knows who's in charge," LaPolice said. "We know who's in charge."

Of course, the new regime unloaded a couple of vets -- Lenny Walls, Siddeeq Shabazz -- well before camp.

I expect a surprise or two next week, as well.

As coach LaPo always says, it's a change business.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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