Jim Barker wants to see heads roll on Sunday at the Varsity Centre.
The annual Canadian Football League schedule wraps up with on-field individual and group drills, and how players who are eligible for the CFL’s Canadian draft on May 2 perform could go a long way in determining who Barker, the Argonauts’ head coach, takes with the first pick overall.
“When they wear pads and helmets, it gives you a chance to see who has a mean streak, who can play a little bit nasty,” Barker said on Saturday in a downtown Toronto hotel ball room as off-field testing ended.
“That’s what (Sunday) is all about, the one-on-ones, the competition.
“It’s important. (Off-field testing) is great, but football is a game of combat.”
One player who opened eyes at the Park Hyatt was Michael Montoya of Wilfrid Laurier. The Burlington native, all 5-feet-10 and 236 pounds of him, set a camp record with 40 reps in the 225-pound bench press.
Three young men are eager to show Barker what he is looking for. Many CFL observers figure that offensive lineman John Bender, ranked first overall by the CFL’s amateur scouting bureau, will play in the NFL. Barker and his staff don’t follow the CFL rankings, as they make their own, so Bender might not be at the top of their list, anyway.
But one of offensive lineman Joe Eppele, linebacker Cory Greenwood or linebacker Shomari Williams could be. One camp observer thought Eppele could emerge as the top pick with a strong showing on Sunday.
“You hear lots of different things,” said Eppele, a man-beast who is 6-foot-8 and 306 pounds without an ounce of fat. “We’re going to put the pads on and show them what we have. It will be exciting to see what other guys bring to the table.”
A native of Vancouver, the 22-year-old played at Washington State, but did not start much on a team that struggled. It’s something that could be held against him, but it did not faze Barker.
“To have a guy that big do a 36-inch vertical jump speaks volumes about how hard he has trained for this,” Barker said.
“And that speaks to how much he wants to play. He is a guy who has helped himself.”
For Eppele, the evaluation camp experience has been a learning experience.
“You feel like a piece of meat at a cattle drive,” said Eppele, who has family in Toronto. “You are being looked at, and you know it is a chance to perform for (the CFL clubs) and I am taking it just as that.”
Greenwood is ranked second by the CFL, Williams fourth. Greenwood, a Kingston native who played at Concordia, was the CIS outstanding defensive player in 2009; Williams, of Brampton, was integral as Queen’s won the Vanier Cup.
“Once you throw the pads on (Sunday), I’ve been playing for 10 years, so it’s nothing,” Greenwood said. “Once you get the helmet on, you don’t think about anything else. It’s just natural.”