Blue battles begin anew

Bomber Head Coach Doug Berry.

Bomber Head Coach Doug Berry.

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:45 AM ET

There will be "Magic on the Prairies" this November when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers organization plays host to the 2006 Grey Cup.

Some might say an even more impressive magic trick would be new head coach Doug Berry getting the Bombers to that game.

All cheap shots aside, it's going to be a mighty steep hill for the Bombers to climb if they're going to recover from a four-year decline in which their records have gone from 14-4 in 2001 to 5-13 in 2005.

However, GM Brendan Taman had one of his best off-seasons in years when it comes to recruiting talent, and Berry is adamant almost all jobs are up for grabs.

May the best men win.

Here are the position-by-position battles ahead, with each player's last football address in parentheses:

QUARTERBACK (4)

STILL HERE: Kevin Glenn, Russ Michna

NEW ARRIVALS: Brad Banks (Ottawa), Mike Quinn (NFL)

ADIOS: Spergon Wynn, Tee Martin

OUTLOOK: Even though Berry won't say it, this has to be Glenn's job to lose, considering he now has a solid season as a CFL starter under his belt. Some say Banks was the steal of the Ottawa Renegades dispersal draft, while Berry is a big fan of the 32-year-old Quinn. Michna, the incumbent backup, will have a fight on his hands.

RUNNING BACK (6)

STILL HERE: Charles Roberts

NEW ARRIVALS: Onterrio Smith (NFL), Henri Childs (NFL Europe), David Stevens (CIS), Tellis Redmon (NFL), Cory Olynick

ADIOS: No one.

OUTLOOK: This category was a no-brainer for four straight seasons. Now? Not so much. Last week's signing of Smith means the tailback position is the one to watch. The Bombers insist Roberts remains No. 1 and Smith will "complement" him, but all we heard all winter was that no one's job is guaranteed under the Berry regime. Childs is in tough but could be a backup receiver as well, while Stevens will battle for a special teams gig. Don't count out Redmon, either.

FULLBACK (4)

STILL HERE: Scott Regimbald, Chris Cvetkovic, Graeme Bell

NEW ARRIVALS: Lenard Semajuste (CIS)

ADIOS: Wade Miller

OUTLOOK: We're not sure what Regimbald's job description will be this season, now that the fullback position has been all but taken out of the offensive playbook. Cvetkovic should hold on to the longsnapping duties.

RECEIVERS (14)

STILL HERE: Milt Stegall, Chris Brazzell, Jamie Stoddard, Scott Robinson, Chad Rempel

NEW ARRIVALS: Albert Johnson III (NFL Europe), Quentin McCord (NFL), Adrian Madise (NFL), Arjei Franklin (CIS), Blair Atkinson (CIS), Jeff Schieman (CIS), Casey Allen (NCAA), Andrae Thurman (NFL), Darryl Ray (Ottawa)

ADIOS: Keith Stokes, Darnell McDonald, Michael Coleman, Gilles Colon

OUTLOOK: The sensational Stegall is back for a farewell tour, Brazzell showed last year he is a top-notch talent, and Johnson III was magnificent in 2000. If the Bombers can go with an all-Canadian offensive line, they could put five speedy import receivers on the field at the same time. Thurman is the best of all the newcomers, but McCord and Madise could slip into starting roles as well. Watch out for Franklin, the team's top pick in last month's draft. He's fast and tough.

OFFENSIVE LINE (13)

STILL HERE: Jermese Jones, Aaron Fiacconi, Dan Goodspeed, Matt Sheridan, Mike Abou-Mechrek, Ryan Bachman, Tyler Tapp, Marc Parenteau

NEW ARRIVALS: Ryan Bisson (NCAA), Dominic Picard (CIS), Adam Krajewski (CIS), Val St. Germain (Ottawa), Obby Khan (Ottawa)

ADIOS: Cory Annett, John Feugill

OUTLOOK: If the stars aligned for the Bombers, their dream O-line would consist of all non-imports: Fiacconi, Sheridan, Abou-Mechrek, St. Germain and Khan. Imports Goodspeed and Jones will try their darndest to ruin those plans.

KICKERS (2)

STILL HERE: Troy Westwood

NEW ARRIVAL: Duncan O'Mahony (B.C.)

ADIOS: Jon Ryan

OUTLOOK: If you use statistics to gauge the future, Westwood will remain the placekicker and O'Mahony will do the punting. Don't expect Westwood, 37, to let O'Mahony, 29, come in and steal the punting job, however. And don't expect O'Mahony to let Westwood keep the placekicking duties without a fight, either.

RETURNERS

STILL HERE: No one

NEW ARRIVALS: Albert Johnson III (NFL), Onterrio Smith (NFL), Andrae Thurman (NFL), Gabriel Fulbright (NCAA), Adrian Madise (NFL), Tellis Redmon (NFL)

ADIOS: Keith Stokes, Gilles Colon, Darnell McDonald

OUTLOOK: Stokes returned 75% of all kicks last season, so a full-time replacement is necessary. It appears Johnson III and Thurman have the inside track.

DEFENSIVE LINE (11)

STILL HERE: Jon Oosterhuis, Martin Lapostolle, Doug Brown, Tom Canada, Gavin Walls

NEW ARRIVALS: Cam Legault (Ottawa), Ron Warner (NFL), Hakeem Kashama (Ottawa), Dexter Ross (NAIA), Stevie Baggs (NFL Europe), Dante Booker (B.C.)

ADIOS: Joe Fleming, Antwone Young

OUTLOOK: The team's best group from 2005 is even better with the additions of Warner and Legault. Warner, Canada, Baggs and Walls will battle for the two ends positions, while Legault will have his work cut out for him if he's going to replace the retired Fleming. Warner might move inside as well. Brown is a lock at the other tackle position, while Booker will push for a roster spot.

LINEBACKERS (12)

STILL HERE: Travis Ortega, Neil McKinlay, Joe Tuipala, Scott Mennie, Cedric Dickerson, Ron Ockimey, Santino Hall

NEW ARRIVALS: Barrin Simpson (B.C.), Donny Green (NFL), Kyries Hebert (Ottawa), Robert Grant (Ottawa), Adrian Baird (Ottawa)

ADIOS: Ryland Wickman, Lamar McGriggs, Sean Woodson

OUTLOOK: Those three departed players were all starters last season, so a new linebacking era is about to begin on Maroons Road. Simpson is the undisputed man in the middle, and Hebert would most certainly grab one of the two outside spots -- if he shows up. After that it's a free-for-all, with Ortega, Dickerson, Grant, Tuipala, Ockimey, Hall and Green all candidates for either one or both outside positions. Stevie Baggs or Ike Charlton might also get a look at linebacker for 3-4 defensive sets.

SECONDARY (17)

STILL HERE: Ike Charlton, Anthony Malbrough, Boyd Barrett, Omar Evans, William Fields, Brad Franklin, Stanford Samuels, Shawn Gallant, John Sullivan

NEW ARRIVALS: Kelly Malveaux (Montreal), Donnavan Carter (Ottawa), Robert Bean (Arena League), Ian Logan (CIS), Mike Crumb (Toronto), Gabriel Fulbright (NCAA), Jazzmen Williams (NCAA), Sidney Haugabrook (Hamilton)

ADIOS: Ryan Folk, Justin Coleman, Syniker Taylor

OUTLOOK: The Bombers allowed the most passing yards in CFL history last season, so this could be -- and should be -- the most wide open position in camp. Carter looks good for the starting safety position, while Evans has to be a front-runner for one of the corner spots. Other than that, everyone else better be ready. Franklin, Fields, Fulbright, Williams and Bean will contend on the other corner, while Malveaux, Malbrough, Samuels and Charlton are the strongest candidates for the two halfback spots.


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