Blue's Koch catching on

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

One way to get a feel for just how far Kyle Koch has come in the last year is to check his performances against nose tackle Doug Brown in one-on-one pass-rushing drills.

"Last year I'd put my head down and I wouldn't even put a hand on him," the Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman said. "Now at least I get a hand on him ... for a little while."

OK, so maybe his record against one of the league's best defensive linemen isn't fair, but it's how the 23-year-old kid from Kenora wants to test himself.

That gets Koch rave reviews from Brown himself.

"What I like best about Koch is no matter what successes you have or haven't had against him, he's going to hang in there with you, he's always going to battle you, and he's not going to give up," Brown said.

"He requests me when we do the one-on-one pass-rushing drill. He always waves me over. I've been pretty successful against him this year doing that, but he always wants more.

"And that just shows you he's got that thirst for betterment and he likes to challenge himself. That's how you get better in this league."

It's been an amazing 12 months for Koch, who went undrafted last spring after a stellar career at McMaster University in Hamilton but was signed by the Blue and Gold shortly after the draft.

Koch did enough in training camp to stick around, and before he knew it he was making his first career start on Oct. 5. Then he was on the field for the East Division final when Andrew Greene caught the flu.

"You were sitting in a bar, and you end up playing in the East final the next day," offensive line coach Bob Wylie recently told Koch. "The best part was that you won."

It got even better during the off-season, as the Bombers bid adieu to Greene for economic and age reasons. That left Koch as the starting right guard going into training camp.

Head coach Doug Berry, a former O-line coach himself, has no problem with Koch being on the first-team offence.

"Kyle's a good football player because he's got a great attitude," said Berry, who also raves about Koch's foot work. "He's got the offensive line mentality. He's a tough son of a gun, and he plays that way.

"It's his character. It fits his skill set, and we need him. Being a line coach, I love guys like that -- blue collar."

When asked how much better he is this year than last, Koch said it's like "night and day." He realizes, however, that his lofty status on the depth chart means squat with other young linemen, like first-round draft pick Brendon LaBatte, challenging for work.

"It definitely is (a head start)," he said. "But I'm just like anybody else out here. I'm just coming out here trying to make the team.

"I'm not worrying about nothing. I ain't worried about that stuff. I'm just trying to impress coaches like everybody else."

Two seconds later, though, he was joking around like an established veteran. Winnipeg's O-linemen have created a policy in which they must pay a fine each time they get any kind of media attention.

Koch, revealing the same confidence he shows with Brown during one-on-one drills, made a bold move he certainly wouldn't have tried last year.

"It's nice playing beside Dan Goodspeed," he said. "Make sure his name goes in the paper so he gets fined, too. If I'm going down, he's coming with me."


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