EDMONTON - With 268 days before the CFL plays its 100th Grey Cup in Toronto, it’s not surprising that the focus of the annual CFL congress in Toronto this week has been on the league’s storied history.
But when 59 of Canada’s top football prospects take to the field for the evaluation camp in advance of the CFL draft on May 3, the attention of coaches, general managers and scouts will quickly turn to the future.
While celebrations for the century-marking milestone of a Grey Cup, set for Sunday Nov. 25, will span several weeks across the entire country. The Edmonton Eskimos, like the rest of the league, are concentrating on taking the first steps toward earning a trip back to Toronto’s Rogers Centre in eight months to play in the iconic contest.
And it starts with this weekend’s E-camp, where some of the best CIS players and their NCAA counterparts with non-import status will put their talent and athleticism on display for all eight potential employers.
“We brought all of our scouting department,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed, who is in the running to be honoured at the CFL coach of the year luncheon on Friday. “Those guys have invested a lot of time since we started in December evaluating these guys and we wanted them to get a close-up look.”
After hearing from CFL commissioner Mark Cohon on Friday evening, the players will be run through a battery of strength and agility tests before being put on the clock for the 40-yard dash, blocking, passing and catching drills on Sunday.
But the most important part for Reed will be when he gets to sit down with the 20 prospects put on the slate for Friday and Saturday.
“When you get a chance to have the interview, which I think is the most important part, you get to get a feel for their personalities and their football IQ and their passion for the game,” Reed said. “This is an extremely deep draft. In my coaching tenure, I think it’s the second deepest to the Jason Clermont draft year (in 2002).
“Not only is it deep, it’s the quality that you’re going to get in Rounds 3, 4, 5 and 6.”
In the most recent list of top prospects released by the CFL’s Scouting Bureau in January, the leading players include University of Saskatchewan offensive lineman Ben Heenan, Wildrid Laurier receiver Sjamawd Chambers and Universite Laval defensive end Arnaud Gascon-Nadon.
There are also a trio of Canadian quarterbacks in attendance: reigning Vanier Cup pivot Kyle Quinlan, from McMaster; University of British Columbia’s Billy Greene and Acadia’s Kyle Graves.
“We’ve really done a good job of film study. I am really impressed with how that has gone,” Reed said. “The biggest thing now is to get a visual on these guys up close and personal.”
The league’s RONA Canada Day Kickoff has Ray and the Toronto Argonauts visiting Commonwealth Stadium on June 30.