Als rated low, aiming high

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

The Montreal Alouettes are being scoffed at by football insiders in Western Canada.

With a CFL rookie head coach (Marc Trestman), key defections on defence and an aging offensive one-two punch in Anthony Calvillo and Ben Cahoon, the Als aren't receiving many votes to finish first in the CFL's East Division. But that doesn't bother general manager Jim Popp.

"We're the franchise everybody has been gunning for the last 12 years and there's been a lot of jealous people," Popp said.

"So, they want to knock you down constantly and tell you how bad you are. Everybody tells us we are an old team -- and we are one of the youngest teams in the league. They (the critics) look at Calvillo and Cahoon and they all make you into an old football team.

"That is plenty fine. We will sneak up on them and get 'em good when they are not ready for it."

The Als are coming off a frustrating and injury-filled 8-10 season.

Unfortunately for the CFL's most eastern franchise, the injury bug continues to be a problem.

Cahoon will not play in the regular-season opener because he's on the one-game injured list with a quad problem. That would leave a major hole in the receiving core.

Starting left tackle Josh Bourke won't be ready to play when the regular season starts next week.

Neither will FB Mike Vilimek nor DT Jeff Keeping. But Trestman does have Calvillo -- one of the league's top quarterbacks -- at his service. And Trestman's NFL resume is full of offensive success with pivots Steve Young and Bernie Kosar.

In fact, Trestman was an offensive co-ordinator with four different NFL teams and made the playoffs with each one.

Now, it's a question of whether he can adjust fast enough to the CFL game.

"He is a very, very detailed coach," said Popp, who was the head coach last year.

"He has handled camp well and he is doing everything he can to understand all the little ins and outs of the CFL."

Trestman actually sounds like a kid with a new toy on Christmas morning.

"Every day is a learning experience. Something new comes up every day and I expect it would be that way, and I've enjoyed every minute of it," he said. "I've just enjoyed working out with the players and working with them."

To no surprise, you can count Calvillo as one of Trestman's supporters.

"Everything's going really well. Marc has had time to put his stamp on this team," said Calvillo.

"We've got some big receivers who can go get the ball, but what I like is that we've got some new vision, some new plays that are brand new to this league so that's going to be a challenge for people to stop."

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ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES

Last season: 8-10

Key departures: S Etienne Boulay, DT Dario Romero, QB Jason Mass, DT Steve Charbonneau, LB Tim Strickland.

Key additions: LB Reggie Hunt, WR Jason Armstead, DT Jeff Keeping, DT Keron Williams, WR Jamel Richardson.


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