Esks vets go with youth movement

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:31 AM ET

EDMONTON - Think of them as the University of Edmonton Eskimos.

Greg Peach says it’s like college football in the U.S. Two years ago he was the freshman, in his rookie season. Now he looks around and he’s a senior.

“It’s a little bit like that,” said the player who is one of only four players on his side of the ball who started with the Eskimos last year and is the only guy left on the defensive line.

“There are a lot of young new faces around here,” he said of the gathering in the dressing room for their first day together as the 2011 edition of the Eskimos to start the week of preparation leading to Sunday’s lid lifter against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina.

“It’s definitely a different scenario than I’m used to the last couple of years,” he said of learning how to be a pro from guys like Dario Romaro, who will be on the other side of the field in Sunday.

But is there a football team here somewhere?

“Yes! Definitely,” said Peach.

“This is definitely a group of hungry young individuals. You can tell by the way we practise. And there’s still a lot of good leadership to look up to, too.

“I think this is a group which is going to work hard to prepare each week to win. I’m not afraid of the situation at all. I think it’s all going to fit together as we figure out our season together. We definitely have talented players here to do that.”

Peach says there’s something this team has together already that people probably haven’t thought about.

“A lot of guys are my ages and have a lot in common. There’s definitely a team atmosphere here already. We’re all in this together. We’ve bonded together already. There’s a great atmosphere.”

Rookie head coach Kavis Reed said that indeed appears to have happened with this team which not only has eight new starters on defence but five more on offence and only 18 holdovers from the final regular season game who go into the season on the 46-man active roster this year.

“The guys have done a good job of coming together so far,” he said.

But he admits it’s a group which needs to taste triumph sooner than later.

“We need success early. We need these guys to enjoy playing with each other and having fun.”

In the CFL, just about the last place you go looking for success is old Taylor Field, now Mosaic Stadium, in old Pile of Bones, as Regina was named before it became the Queen City.

(All sorts of interesting stuff to learn here, all you new guys.)

“Saskatchewan has been a pretty good team the last four years,” said quarterback Ricky Ray of the Riders, who have in the Grey Cup in three of the four of them and should have won two if they could count. (Don’t ask your new head coach about that, though.)

“It’s going to be a good test. It’s one of the toughest places to play in this league,” said the QB.

Ray said that other than the familiar surroundings he feels like he got traded to a new team. But does he think it can be a good a team?

“Of course I do. Shoot,” said the pivot who led the Eskimos to a Grey Cup game in his first season in the league in 2002 and got the Eskimos back again to win a ring in 2003 and 2005.

“We’re a group of young guys who are going to be going out there to try find our identity. We’re still building chemistry with each other,” said T.J. Hill, the former All-Star linebacker now starting at safety.

“We didn’t have the pre-season we wanted. But there’s some confidence in here behind that because we were a way better team in practice than we were in games.

“But now it start for real. It’s professional sports. You learn and you step up. The margin of error is pretty slim.”

Defensive back Chris Thompson said there have obviously been challenges in his area with the group coming together but there’s some hope in there.

“The organization has done a good job finding talented guys and these guys are buying into the system.

“It’s going to take time to know what everybody is doing, but once that happens, the sky is the limit.

“Once this group starts developing some confidence, I think we’re going to have some fun here.”

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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