New recruits bolster o-line

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:38 PM ET

The heart of the Calgary Stampeders o-line is growing old, although coach Steve Buratto prefers a less offensive expression.

"It's not any secret two of the mainstays are getting a little long in the tooth," Buratto gingerly noted.

"But they obviously can play as long as they wish to play."

Both are Canadians.

Both are career Stamps.

Both are within clear view of retirement, although not just yet.

The greybeards in question are centre Jamie Crysdale, 36, with 12 CFL seasons under his belt, while left guard Jay McNeil, 34, has logged 11 CFL campaigns.

Accentuating the point is the Stampeders' use on Thursday of three of their six precious Canadian college draft choices in selecting new recruits for the offensive line.

Crysdale and McNeil will be enlisted this season with helping groom the eager newcomers, to essentially one day claim the very football jobs the two veterans still cherish.

"You don't just say to the veterans, 'You go coach them,' but the older players do an awful lot in helping develop young guys," Buratto says.

The three o-linemen selected are all impressive prospects.

Second-rounder Godfrey Ellis of Acadia is considered the strongest recruit at 6 ft. 2 in. and 300 lb.

John Comiskey, brother of long-time CFLer Dan Comiskey, is 6 ft. 4 in., 295 lb., and was picked in the third round after playing his ball at Windsor, while fourth-rounder Kyler Jukes of Regina is 6 ft. 4 in., 280 lb.

Allowing the fresh faces time to learn their trade is Buratto's plan to ease up on Crysdale and McNeil, offering the rookies more reps in camp while saving the vets for game day.

"We're going to give Jay and Jamie enough work that they're conditioned and ready to play when we've got to go on the field," Buratto said. "You've only got so many licks in you and you're better off saving them for November."

Under the new coaching staff, Buratto will be monitoring the o-line while also performing his primary function as offensive co-ordinator.

Although he's a skilled and experienced CFL coach, there's only 24 hours in a day and Buratto will lean on his aging linemen to supply some teaching. It's a scenario that suits both Crysdale and McNeil just fine.

"It's going to be interesting to see," Crysdale says.

"It's really good but it can be an ugly situation, too."

Ugly if animosity builds between two men intent on securing one job.

"For a veteran to take a guy by the proverbial hand and bring him along?" Crysdale wonders out loud.

"Depends who it is. Some guys need more knowledge than others. They just have to refine their skills more.

"They're looking at them as the future and that's a good move."

The five-man starting unit should be relatively unchanged from last season, although Canadian Alexandre Gauthier, who signed as a free agent in the off-season, is expected to step into a starting role at left tackle, replacing released import Seth Dittman.


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