Hall's stamp all over Esks

CON GRIWKOWSKY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:56 PM ET

EDMONTON - It’s a quirky little phrase Edmonton Eskimos head coach Richie Hall has taken to saying.

No longer a rookie head coach, Hall has distanced himself from his past with the, ahem, “that other place I was at.”

One year removed from Saskatchewan Roughriders, he's settling in nicely.

“I started that this year and Danny (GM Maciocia) goes ‘huh?’ but now he’s used to it,” said Hall. “You know, the other place I was at. It’s just a joke. Nothing personal.”

There’s no question Hall has put his own mark and his own style to his second training camp.

Being a bit more involved in hands-on coaching, Hall has avoided looking like he was looking for something to do.

He can still keep an eye on what’s happening in the field.

And, so far, he likes what he sees.

That pace started with the rookie camp last week and carried on when the veterans reported on Sunday.

“It’s not like you always have to start at ground zero, even though you do start at ground zero with the young players,” said Hall. “Once the veterans get here, the progression is a lot quicker than if you started at ground zero like we were at this time last year.”

That’s because last year was ground zero as the organization took an entirely new direction.

“Everything was new,” said Hall. “A new head coach, new staff, so there’s that whole process.”

Even though changes are inevitable in football, there’s a certain level of comfort about having some continuity. Both coaches and players know what to expect and there’s not quite as sharp of a learning curve and there are fewer surprises.

“Just the confidence level,” said Hall. “They know what to expect.

They have a good idea about how I want to do things. I have a good idea as far as things have worked and have been done here in the past.

“Of course, you’re going to put a little wrinkle here and there. For the most part, we’ve maintained the same foundation and the same philosophy that’s been instilled here.”

There’s plenty of room for optimism after the team finished third in the CFL West with a 9-9 record.

Like the stability of a returning offensive line.

“They’ve been able to play 19 games for us last year and they were probably the most consistent group that we have on our football team,” said Hall. “Consistency builds trust, builds confidence and I think you saw that from start to finish. They were a good group at the beginning, but they were a lot more physical and determined group at the end of the year.”

Hall’s stubborn insistence on establishing a credible running game started to pay off, enabling Arkee Whitlock to emerge as a legitimate running threat.

“We made the decision to run the football and had some success with it,” said Hall. “They were aggressive with it and physical. All of a sudden you play pass and they’re still physical. They had the opportunity to pound the ball and offensive lineman always like that.

“There’s a domino effect. All of a sudden, now our passing game is more successful. Ricky (Ray) is happier because they’re not getting to him and he’s not on his butt. The receivers are happier because they’re getting more footballs.”

One year on and Hall has managed to put his stamp on this football team.

It’s his team now and, so far, it’s going according to his vision.

con.griwkowsky@sunmedia.ca


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