Hard to 'Peg

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:28 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers could bounce back big time, or they could be one hot mess.

You get the feeling it won't be anywhere in between.

And that's what makes the Blue and Gold the CFL's biggest wildcard going into the 2009 campaign.

New head coach Mike Kelly suggested the Bombers needed only tweaking when he took over for the fired Doug Berry in December, but he proceeded to basically blow the whole thing up.

More than half of the starting lineup is gone, and there are only 27 returnees from last year's squad that finished 8-10 and quickly bowed out of the playoffs with a home loss to the Edmonton Eskimos in the East Division semifinal.

Kelly and new director of player personnel John Murphy wasted little time in making their marks. They got rid of veteran starting quarterback Kevin Glenn and replaced him with Stefan LeFors, they watched three-fifths of the offensive line leave via free agency, and the secondary is almost entirely new.

More than a few members of Bomber Nation are anxious, but the head coach isn't concerned about that.

"I'm worried about the task at hand here," said Kelly, who admitted there will be growing pains. "I am acutely aware that people have questions as to who and what we are, but I think that'll play out as they see us play.

"My concern right now is what's happening in this building, and I really don't care much about anything else."

When asked a week into training camp if he could pinpoint the team's best off-season move, Kelly said, "Yeah, hiring me."

He was only half-kidding.

Then he said, in all seriousness, that Murphy's hiring was the top transaction. The former Calgary Stampeders assistant director of scouting brought in a handful of players he knew, including former Stamps defensive back Lenny Walls and running back Lavarus Giles.

He also inked offensive linemen Glenn January, Steve Morley and Luke Fritz. The team has made 12 trades since he arrived.

How it will perform, no one knows, but they certainly are confident.

"Across the board I don't see a lack of talent anywhere, really, from the top to bottom," LeFors said.

Kelly, who was Winnipeg's offensive co-ordinator for five years in the 1990s and spent the 2008 campaign as Edmonton's receivers coach, has talked often about restoring the pride to the Bomber organization.

What it really needs, though, is a Grey Cup win, as it's been 19 years since the Bombers won a league title. It's the longest drought by nearly a decade.

"What I'll be looking for all the time is growth, Kelly said. "If we can, through the summer, keep taking steps forward, and if we have more steps forward than we do backward, then down the stretch I think what we've put together here -- if we stay healthy -- will have an opportunity to be very competitive."


Photos