Lions approaching opener

BOB MACKIN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

The rebuilding B.C. Lions open their 56th season tonight in Regina against the Saskatchewan Roughriders (6 p.m. TSN/Team 1040/Sirius Canada).

The Lions are 28-25-2 all-time in season openers. Their best result was 44-1 over Saskatchewan on June 28, 1987.

Hard to believe, but this is quarterback Buck Pierce's fifth CFL campaign. He is 14-7-1 as a starter. Familiar backup Jarious Jackson is above newcomer Travis Lulay on the depth chart.

Tonight will be the first time the Lions will see Jason Clermont on the other side of the ball. The seven-year Leo slotback was let go after last season and he returned to hometown Regina where he donned flatland green. Taking his space on the Lions' depth chart is B.C. veteran Paris Jackson.

Punt returner Ian Smart was promoted to featured running back with rookie Martell Mallett behind him. Both will see plenty of special teams action.

"We're not going to overburden Ian, he's going to be our primary punt-returner," said head coach and general manager Wally Buono. "We're going to use him at times as kickoff returner. Mallett's going to do a lot of kickoff returns himself. By doing it this way, we give them both an opportunity to play at the running back position, but yet we don't take away from our return game."

"It's still football, even though it's a passing league, when you do run you get bigger chunks," Mallett said on the Canadian game's airborne emphasis.

Left tackle Walter Stith replaces Rob Murphy, now a Toronto Argonaut. Dean Valli moves into Kelly Bates' old left guard spot after Bates became a Winnipeg Blue Bomber. Ex-Bomber Bobby Singh returns to the Lions' lair as Valli's backup.

Defensive end Cameron Wake is now a Miami Dolphin. Ricky Foley is his replacement. Nautyn McKay-Loescher returns to B.C. to backup Brent Johnson on the other side. Tackle Aaron Hunt will seek his fourth CFL all-star nod. Ex-Rider Anton McKenzie replaces linebacker Otis Floyd, who is now a Hamilton Tiger-Cat. Leos' veteran Javier Glatt will play his 100th game tonight. Meanwhile, Korey Banks goes from halfback to nickelback.


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