Marshall feels great

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Greg Marshall knew he wanted to become Coach Marshall when he was a perennial CFL all-star defensive lineman with the Rough Riders two decades ago.

"I liked to say I was one of the players who would stay awake at team meetings," he remembered with a chuckle during a phone conversation from his home in Edmonton yesterday. "I wanted to learn as much as possible."

Coincidentally, he'll soon be the one at the front of those same Frank Clair Stadium meeting rooms talking to half the players. And, unless the Renegades finish with their best record ever nine months from now, the entire team could very well be under Marshall's command in 2006.

If there is only one change to the Ottawa coaching staff this season, it will be that Marshall has replaced Gary Etcheverry as the defensive co-ordinator. The 48-year-old Beverly, Mass., native has held that post the past three seasons with the Eskimos, for whom he has worked since 2000. He'll officially join the Renegades when he and coach and GM Joe Paopao come to an agreement on his new title, which will likely include that of assistant head coach.

"There will be added responsibilities," said Marshall, who, in his heart, has felt ready to take over a top job since he was on Saskatchewan's staff (1994-1999). "This is a good opportunity ... an opportunity that allows me to keep moving up the ladder. It will add to my resume. Hopefully, down the road, it leads to a head-coaching job or something in management."

The hiring is a strong one for Paopao, who was a teammate of Marshall's in the final season of the latter's outstanding, 120-game career. It may have also been insisted upon, if not strongly suggested, by ownership.

When Paopao was rehired earlier this month, he signed a one-year contract with the option for a second year that kicks in only if the team wins at least eight games.

If not, he'll most certainly be replaced on the sidelines by Marshall, whom ownership strongly considered making the coach for this season.

There is no question Marshall is qualified for the job. When a nagging neck injury forced him to hang up his cleats during training camp in 1988, he had already been a four-time Eastern all-star and two-time CFL all-star, as well as the league's defensive player of the year in 1983.

Marshall, a graduate of Oregon State University, made an immediate transition.

He coached the Ottawa Bootleggers of the American Football Alliance for two seasons and had an undefeated record in 1990. He coached the Sooners for three seasons and was named the Canadian Junior Football League coach of the year in 1991, when that team won all its games and a national championship. He was a guest coach at the Argos training camp in 1991 and Rough Rider camps in 1992 and 1993. And prior to joining the Eskimos, he spent six seasons with Saskatchewan, where he was defensive co-ordinator, defensive line coach and co-ordinator for the CFL college draft.

Marshall was a top candidate for the Eskimos coaching job that ultimately went to offensive co-ordinator Danny Maciocia last month.

"It's fairly natural to assume there was some disappointment that I didn't get the position," said Marshall. "But that's not the No. 1 reason I'm leaving."

KIDS BORN HERE

Nor is the fact that he and wife Cindy spent 14 enjoyable years in Ottawa, where all four of their children (Christine, 23; Bryan, 21; Caitlin, 17; Kelsie, 14) were born. Or the fact the Marshalls still have a lot of friends here.

"This is the best thing for my future," he said.

Marshall's defence was middle of the road last season, but in the two seasons previous it was the backbone of a team that won a Grey Cup game (over Montreal in 2003) and lost one (to Montreal in 2002).

He has looked at Ottawa's personnel and sees a group led by three veterans he has long admired: Kelly Wiltshire, Gerald Vaughn and Jerome Haywood. He says he'll deviate between a "40" defence and a "30" defence, adapting accordingly to different situations and the players he winds up with. He is aware of the injury problems that plagued the Renegades last season, and he sees potential.

"I think they did a good job the first three years in the league ... that last year was a hiccup," said Marshall, who thinks he may commute from Edmonton "for the first year" and leave the family behind. "I'm excited about going there and getting things back on track."


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