Eskimos unveil coaching staff

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:38 PM ET

With the 2011 campaign just ahead, Kavis Reed assembled all his generals in the war room at Commonwealth Stadium for the first time since becoming head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos.

While introducing the coaching staff to local media Thursday, Reed said there isn’t one who wasn’t at the top of the team’s wish list.

“I would honestly say that all of them are our first choices. That is not saying the politically correct thing, that is telling the truth,” said Reed. “These are guys that we targeted and we had them in place before I even got the job, in fact.

“It’s been a process that we’ve enjoyed because we’ve looked at some very intelligent and interesting individuals and came out with a very good coaching staff, we believe.”

A pair of coaches are carrying over from last year’s staff, linebackers coach Mark Nelson and offensive line coach Tim Prinsen — both former CFL players themselves who joined the Eskimos late last year following the departures of Dan Kepley and Jeff Bleamer.

“Those guys showed in a very short period of time that they can adjust to adverse situations,” Reed said of Nelson and Prinsen. “They came in and with their units you saw a distinct difference. And that goes to their coaching abilities. When you see that, you’re intrigued by it and I think we made a smart choice in keeping them.”

While running backs was another area that saw improvement over the year, unit coach Terry Eisler was not brought back into the fold.

“The biggest thing is is that those guys, that coach, are going to be tied into our protection and there were some issues last year, as we all know, well documented about protection here,” said Reed. “We wanted a guy that was well-versed in protection schemes and we got that in coach (Dennis) McKnight.”

With 12 years as an offensive lineman in the NFL on his resume, McKnight blocked for the legendary Barry Sanders, bringing all-around experience when it comes to a running back’s requirements for rushing and pass protection.

“You can’t buy that experience too many times in a day,” said Reed, who has worked with all his coaches in the past except for McKnight and receivers coach Steff Kruck. “I know (Kruck) casually as a colleague. Always admired his work, the way he prepared his players.”

None of the six coaches were a tough sell to Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman.

“I had no issues with getting Eric on board with these guys,” Reed said. “In fact, he — like myself — is extremely happy that those guys decided to join us.”

With coaches in place, Reed and Tillman’s attention has since turned to the player roster, with free agency getting underway this week and the upcoming CFL Evaluation Camp. From March 4-6, Reed, Tillman and Eskimos head scout Ed Hervey will be in Toronto gauging 53 of the country’s top prospects in preparation for the CFL draft in May.

“We have been working in a deficit in terms of Canadian depth, and in some cases Canadian talent,” Reed said. “It’s going to be a very important draft for us so we’re making sure we do everything we need to do to have a good draft.”

The Eskimos will make the second-overall draft selection on May 8.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

FACT BOX

2011 Edmonton Eskimos coaching staff:

Kavis Reed, head coach

Rick Campbell, assistant head coach/special teams co-ordinator

Marcus Crandell, offensive co-ordinator/quarterbacks

Rich Stubler, defensive co-ordinator/defensive backs

Steff Kruck, receivers

Kit Lathrop, defensive line

Dennis McKnight, running backs

Mark Nelson, linebackers

Tim Prinsen, offensive line


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