Position battles rage in exhibition tilt

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

The reality is Mike Kelly probably already knows what his starting lineup is going to look like on the opening day of the CFL season.

The Bomber coach did, however, say yesterday that tonight's pre-season match against the Ticats will still have some influence on his decision making. He said he will keep players who know what they're doing over strong athletes.

"We certainly think the game speed will separate some of these players now, as to how they react," Kelly said. "It'll be a big evaluating tool for us."

Here are a few position battles to keep an eye on tonight in the pre-season opener for both squads:

OFFENSIVE LINE

Brendon LaBatte, Obby Khan, Kelly Bates and Glenn January are the front-runners for starting roles, but it's the left tackle spot that has us curious.

Will Steve Morley (No. 62) finally assert himself as a bona fide CFL starter? Can a young upstart like Matt O'Meara (67) steal the spot? Will a veteran like Luke Fritz (61) have to step in and save the day?

SECONDARY

No management group has ever been as kind when talking about a holdout as Kelly and director of player personnel John Murphy were about defensive back Lenny Walls, so we can only assume he's going to be a starter.

The brass loves Ian Logan at safety, and returnee Jovon Johnson has been picking off passes with regularity in camp.

That leaves two spots up for grabs, with Brandon Stewart (21), John Eubanks (38), Keyuo Craver (10), James Johnson (19), Ronyell Whitaker (23), Darrius Battles (26), Patrick Body (36) and Willie Byrd (1) making up the field of competitors.

Johnson and Whitaker appear to have a leg up on the rest.

LINEBACKER

The easy thing for the coaching staff would be to start the experienced trio of Ike Charlton, Barrin Simpson and Siddeeq Shabazz.

There are some interesting options, however, and by "interesting" we mean "cheaper" and "younger." Strong-side 'backer Jonathan Hefney (45) has looked good. Let's see what he can do tonight.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The unique aspect of the placekicker battle is that Alexis Serna is competing against himself, both literally and figuratively.

Dan Giancola still isn't healthy enough to go all out, which means Serna will be the only kicker going tonight.

Serna also needs to get off to a strong start to remove any doubts he may have in his own head. If he misses some easy ones tonight, it will start all over again.

And no one wants that, do they?

HI THERE: Kevin Glenn should not take it personally if Simpson lays the wood on him tonight at Canad Inns Stadium.

Simpson hasn't played in a football game since last July 18, or 11 months ago tomorrow, thanks to a torn pectoral muscle suffered in a game against the B.C. Lions.

Glenn, whom the Bombers released in March, will get a quarter of action tonight against his former squad. Not only will he probably hear boos from the Bomber faithful, but Simpson needs to get some aggression out of his system as well.

"I'm going after everybody," Simpson said. "I'm excited about getting back out there. It's been about 11 months since I got out there in a game and hit somebody.

"I'm pretty geeked up."

ROSTER WATCH: Several Bombers will see limited action tonight due to injury or veteran status.

Doug Brown, Riall Johnson, Brock Ralph, Ramonce Taylor, Fred Reid and Joe Smith will all play sparingly.

LAST WORD: "I don't evaluate Kevin Glenn. He plays for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. I have nothing to do with him."

-- Kelly, when asked what the significance of the former Bomber pivot's performance tonight will be.


Videos

Photos