Old man on the D

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

The most experienced man in the Calgary Stampeders secondary isn't that experienced at all.

Barely 26 and entering his fourth CFL season, halfback Joey Boese is the 'greybeard' among the constantly evolving band of defensive backs the team will field in 2006.

Not bad for a guy who wasn't expected to make the grade in 2003, the first time the Californian was exposed to the CFL.

Not only did he survive, Boese wound up as the team's rookie of the year and has continued growing as a defensive back.

"I've come a long way," said Boese after final preparations for tonight's final pre-season battle with the B.C. Lions.

"I came in here as a guy who was supposed to get cut the first week and somehow managed to hang on in that training camp. I didn't play my first six games but came in and started the last 12, rookie of the year, then I think I had a really good year my second season."

Last year, the 5-ft. 11-in. University of Wisconsin product was again considered in jeopardy of being released after the Stamps signed a raft of experienced free agents. Yet not only did the young Californian survive camp, he was one of the team's steadiest performers, although a serious hamstring injury sidelined him for seven games.

Boese said the team is stressing turnovers this season after struggling the first half of last year in the important givewaway-takeaway ratio.

Although the Stamps finished last season third in the category, the team was minus-6 in a 33-26 West semifinal loss to the Edmonton Eskimos.

"They've stressed turnovers and you can tell from our last game last year, if you can win the turnovers battles your odds of winning the game goes up dramatically," said Boese, who collected two picks last season.

"They've really emphasized that as a defensive unit from the first day of camp and I think it's something that will be stressed every day through the end of the season. Interceptions, strip drills where the first guys makes the tackle and the second guy tries to get the ball back."

Secondary coach Tim Burke, in his second year with the Stampeders, said it is time for his crew to take another step in its development. While the team's offence is supposed to be riddled with game-breakers, the secondary is also expected to turn games with interceptions and fumble recoveries. Newcomers Crance Clemons, Jerron Ruffin, Cedrick Williams and RoShawn Marshall have all made an impression.

"We'd definitely like to create more turnovers and it's an emphasis for us going into this season," Burke said.

"We've been working a lot in practice on stripping the ball out and making guys aware of where the ball is at all times in the hands of the running backs and receivers.

As the longest-serving member of the Stampeders secondary, in his third season under co-ordinator Denny Creehan, Boese said he has never felt more comfortable. When plays are called, he is not only thinking about his own assignment but also what the players are doing.

"It's a lot easier, just for myself knowing the system and being in coaching Creehan's system for a third season," Boese said. "I understand it, I understand what everybody is doing in it.

"I think people will definitely see a difference in our defence this year."


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