Esks forced to hire a pair

Edmonton Eskimos head coach Richie Hall, centre, introduces new linebackers coach Mark Nelson,...

Edmonton Eskimos head coach Richie Hall, centre, introduces new linebackers coach Mark Nelson, right, and new offensive line coach Tim Prinsen Wednesday at Commonwealth Stadium. Nelson replaces Danny Kepley who resigned Monday, while Prinsen takes over from Jeff Bleamer, who was fired on Tuesday.

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:20 PM ET

Richie Hall says he didn’t see it coming.

Despite all the turmoil the Edmonton Eskimos have gone through this season, and speculation surrounding the precarious future of the coaching staff, Dan Kepley’s resignation was unexpected.

It forced the Eskimos head coach to hire two replacements, having already decided to fire offensive line coach Jeff Bleamer.

“I was very surprised and still am surprised with his resignation,” Hall said on Wednesday. “Kep called me on Monday night and it kind of came out of left field.

“There have been 13 Grey Cups in Edmonton’s history and Kep’s been involved in eight of them. He will be missed. He contributed a lot to our organization and our football team, and we wish him all the best.”

Kepley first joined the Eskimos coaching staff in 1985 as a defensive assistant, following a storied 10-year playing career where he won five Grey Cup championships.

Brought back to coach

He returned to the Eskimos in 2002 and apart from a one-year hiatus has been with the club as their linebacker coach since.

Kepley, who could not be reached for comment, was reportedly upset with the dismissal of general manager Danny Maciocia three weeks ago and nearly quit then.

“Sure, Danny Maciocia had really taken Dan Kepley under his wing and they were very close and it was a big shock to him,” said Eskimos president and CEO Rick LeLacheur. “But he still did his job and went about it in a professional manner. And when he came in (to resign) we were surprised.”

On Wednesday, the Eskimos replaced Kepley with Mark Nelson.

The Edmonton native was the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive co-ordinator and linebacker coach last season.

Nelson recently resigned from his assistant coach position at East Carolina University after observing a voluntary summer workout, which was considered a violation by the NCAA.

His father Roger is on the Eskimos ring of honour, having played 13 seasons in Edmonton between 1954 and 1967.

Having dropped to 1-6 on the season following a humiliating 56-15 loss to the Calgary Stampeders on Sunday, the Eskimos were expected to make changes.

The Eskimos also replaced Bleamer with former lineman Tim Prinsen.

Different direction

“Jeff did a great job for us, but with our struggles we’ve decided to go in a different direction.

“We appreciate the contributions he gave us and we wish him the best.”

The offensive line came under scrutiny as quarterback Ricky Ray was under duress in Calgary until eventually getting knocked out of the contest.

Bleamer had been in charge of the offensive line for the past two seasons.

“We’re 1-6 so there has to be changes, from the way we do things, our attitude about things, players and coaching,” Hall said. “The reality of it is, we’re underachieving. We say we’re a better football team, which we are, but we haven’t performed that way and this is the change we decided to make.”

Currently on a bye week, the club is looking at the rest of the season as a new year.

“Going forward, it’s now an 11-game season,” Hall said. “We will go into the season, take it one game at a time and the first game of the season is against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos