Esks close to naming coach

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON

, Last Updated: 7:59 AM ET

Is Richie Hall about to be named the Edmonton Eskimos' new head coach?

There is growing speculation that suggests the Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive co-ordinator is in the driver's seat in the race to be the club's next bench boss.

In fact, two sources believe Hall will be hired rather soon.

"Danny (Maciocia) and Richie have really hit it off," said one source.

"Plus, (Maciocia) knows that it will cripple one of his opponents (the Roughriders)."

"And Richie will have some pretty damn good players follow him over from Saskatchewan."

However, only Maciocia - the Esks new GM - knows who the front-running candidate is.

Maciocia has kept relatively quiet during the search and there is no way to sense which way he's leaning.

But an announcement could come as early as this afternoon.

Current Edmonton assistant coach Noel Thorpe is the other prime candidate.

B.C. Lions defensive co-ordinator Mike Benevides is not in the mix, according to a source.

"It won't be Benny," he remarked. "If Danny wants a young gun, it will be Noel."

Thorpe is clearly a head coach in waiting in the CFL.

An excellent communicator with respect in the locker room, Thorpe is a known commodity.

That is a big plus for the straight-shooting Canuck.

Given the respect Maciocia has for Thorpe, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Esks stay in-house and give Thorpe the job.

But multiple sources are favouring Hall in this race.

There is an outside shot Greg Marshall - Winnipeg's defensive co-ordinator - could be the longshot winner.

But a source within the Eskimos poured cold water on that notion last night.

If Hall is announced as head coach, there will be immediate speculation on his assistant coaching staff.

There will also be speculation on how long Thorpe will remain with the Eskimos.

While nobody is suggesting Thorpe wouldn't return in 2009 in an assistant coaching capacity - if unsuccessful in the head coach derby - it's fair to suggest he will likely be on the radar of the next team searching for a head coach after the start of next year.

If the Eskimos pass over Thorpe in this search, will the club eventually lose him to another CFL team looking for a rising star?

Is that a risk the Esks want to take?


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