Safety in numbers

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

It has become an annual star search in Bomberville since age caught up to Tom Europe: find a reliable starting safety.

Being a Canadian who loves to head hunt would be a bonus.

Since Europe was founding wanting, there was a whole list of failed experiments until Kyries Hebert, an import, finally filled the position rather well after he arrived in town five games into the CFL season last year. But he is being tested at weak-side linebacker in training camp.

Jason Nugent, who was acquired from Edmonton in the deal that sent import defensive lineman Ron Warner to the Eskimos, Ian Logan, John Sullivan and Greg Bearman -- all Canucks -- are listed at safety on the depth chart now.

KEY POSITIONS

"That is one of our key positions because that's the quarterback on defence," new secondary coach Corey Chamblin said. "We have to continue working with them because you're never to the point at safety where you're great.

"Competition's different in that spot because they're not running against a guy all the time. We're still trying to find a good feel on how to create competition (there)."

While the coaches will not say who is leading the race, whispers are that it is between Nugent and Logan, with Nugent enjoying a slight edge to this point. But Hebert can still revert to safety.

Although Nugent spent an entire season in Edmonton last year, he only got into one game because he was rehabbing an ACL torn in college the year before.

"I'm feeling pretty comfortable, just trying to learn every day, get one step better every day," said the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Rutgers product.

"(Defensive co-ordinator Greg) Marshall's got the good gameplan, so I'm just doing whatever he tells me -- just trying to be at the right place at the right time. If I'm at the right place at the right time, then plays will come to you."

Nugent, 25, downplayed the fight for the starting spot with Logan.

"He's a pretty good safety but I'm just doing whatever I can do to get better for myself," said the Scarborough, Ont., native. "I'm trying to fix my mistakes ... I'm really just trying to battle myself.

"I'm just trying to do what I can do to make myself a better player because, if you get caught up in the hype, then you won't focus on yourself."

Logan, 24, was being projected as a possible starter before a hamstring pull sidelined him for seven days at last year's camp.

"I missed those 14 practices and when you can't get out on the field and play through it, it's tough to pick it up on the bench," said the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Wilfrid Laurier product. "So it's been invaluable this year being on the field every practice, every play and getting better.

"I've been healthy this year and it's been good. I've been picking up the system a little better. My legs feel great and it's good competition right now. We're all doing really well and I feel good about how I'm performing."

Both Nugent and Logan are feeling more comfortable after spending a season around a CFL club.

"You know what to expect the second time around," said Logan, a Waterloo, Ont., native. "The biggest thing about feeling more comfortable, it just makes it that much easier to get better a lot quicker."

Bomber head coach Doug Berry said none of the possibilities has been ruled out.

"What we're trying to find out is, 'Can we play with someone else (besides Hebert) at safety?'" he said. "And if that's the case, 'Are we stronger defensively?'"

Or weaker.


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