Bombers hoping to mine diamonds

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:54 PM ET

Winnipeg’s Paul LaPolice clearly recalled the worst CFL rookie camp he ever experienced as an assistant coach.

“(It) was in ‘01 when I was with the (Toronto) Argos and John Jenkins was our offensive co-ordinator,” LaPolice related Tuesday. “We may have had 45 minutes of one-on-ones with about six kids. Just that the kids were dying. They were throwing up at the end of practice and it was just the first day. So, I went, ‘This is going to be a long camp.’

“I remember, I had two running backs and we had three linebackers and I had one-on-ones scheduled for 20 minutes and I said, ‘Do you want us to work with the receivers?’ (Jenkins) said, ‘No, just take them on this side of the field.’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve only got two guys,’ and he said, ‘Well, they’ll get a lot of reps then.’ So, that was a funny camp back in the day.”

LaPolice is about to conduct his first rookie camp in his first year as a CFL head coach when almost 40 Blue Bombers hopefuls take to the Canad Inns Stadium field on Wednesday at 3 p.m.

The camp should be comprised of 34 first-year players plus the four quarterbacks vying for the starting job. While they have yet to be officially signed, the field should include such draftees as receiver Cory Watson, running back Anthony Woodson, linebacker Courtney Smith and defensive lineman Chris Greaves.

“Every night, I will talk to the rookies about certain things and the first thing we’re going to talk to them about is that they have to process information at this level,” LaPolice said. “I believe that everyone who comes up here are talented players but, at every level you go up, it’s harder … Being able to process information and being able to react on the fly is really crucial to what we think a rookie can do — in absorbing a lot of information quickly and being able to execute it. That’s the first thing we’re going to look for in guys.

“The second thing we’re going to look for is staying power. You can’t show up and be great for rookie camp, then we don’t see you ever again. You have to show up every day … The last thing we’re going to talk to them about is that you have to make plays. You have to find ways to make plays and the playmakers who make plays will touch the football on offence and defence.”

The Bombers will be seeking another ‘Hefney in the rough’ or two this week. Last year, defensive back Jonathan Hefney not only made the club as a starter but he wound up being a CFL all-star, the CFL East Rookie of the Year and is now trying to ply his trade in the NFL (Detroit).

“In 2007 in Saskatchewan, we had a very good rookie camp because we had a kid named Rob Bagg, who was undrafted,” said LaPolice, the Roughriders former offensive co-ordinator. “He really stood up and played well. (Wide receiver) Dave McKoy, a draft pick, played really well and a couple of Americans showed well. In ‘08, (receiver) Adarius Bowman showed up. (Receiver) Weston Dressler showed up …

“I’m sure there’ll be some people who will stick out again. Whether they’ll have staying power, whether they can do it consistently and do it in games, all those things will show.”

Aside from quarterback, the toughest battles are expected to be at defensive back and weak-side linebacker.

“Obviously, we’re evaluating talent but we also want to make sure we’re good teachers about the CFL game,” La Police said.

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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