Eskimos' California gold rush

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:52 PM ET

The Golden State has been a goldmine for the Edmonton Eskimos.

The team’s scouting corps returned from a weekend tryout in San Mateo and Long Beach, Calif., on Monday — and they’ll likely be bringing a couple of players up with them for training camp.

“I thought it was pretty good and I think we’re going to do well with it again this year,” Eskimos general manager Danny Maciocia said an hour after landing at the Edmonton International airport. “We’re probably going to look at two, to be honest.”

Around 100 athletes tried out at the camps, which are two of 10 U.S. tryouts the team has scheduled over the off-season, with the other eight running from Texas to Ohio.

But the camps on the western swing have been a recruiter’s dream in recent years, churning out nine players who have gone on to sign with the team — including 2009 finds Mark Restelli, at linebacker, and wide receiver Jason Barnes, who have moved into starting roles.

“It’s been very productive for us,” Maciocia said. “The rule of thumb is if you can find one out of every hundred (who try out) that can be pegged and I think we’ve pretty much lucked out with this area that we work at because the numbers actually have been even more favourable.”

But it’s more than just a numbers game that makes the California camps great.

“We had actually about 100 (this year),” Maciocia said. “But it’s the quality that comes out.”

Although Maciocia, assistant general manager Paul Jones, head coach Richie Hall, football operations manager Dan McKinnon and head scout Ed Hervey usually end up splitting the various tryout trips, the California stops have become a favourite for the entire scouting staff, which turns out in full.

ANOTHER GO FOR OKPRO: Sammy Okpro is taking another run at pro football.

The former Eskimos defensive back, who played three games with the team as a CFL rookie in 2008, will be returning to training camp on June 6.

A late cut at last year’s camp, Okpro will be vying for the free-safety position against fellow non-imports Scott Gordon and Elliott Richardson.

“We worked him out and he did pretty good,” Maciocia said. “We want to give him an opportunity to come in and compete for a job.

“Sammy’s body has changed over the last year. He’s really worked on getting a little bit quicker, as far as having the ability to increase his foot speed and try to cover a little bit more real estate out there.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


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