The battle begins

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:56 PM ET

There will be plenty of cramming required for two prized pupils this week.

An ability to process information on film could have as big an impact as what happens on the field in the race to become the new strong-side linebacker for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

As it stands right now, the two candidates under consideration are Clint Kent and Bernard Hicks.

Kent has done an excellent job in the secondary, while Hicks has been working behind the recently released Ike Charlton since the start of training camp.

The biggest thing is to know your assignments, it starts with that, said Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice. Youve got to know what youre supposed to do and from that point, youve got to be able to make plays, cover people down and do what were trying to do in our defensive system.

Hicks is a rookie who had an excellent college career at the University of California cut short thanks to a quadriceps contusion that calcified during his senior season.

He spent most of 2009 recovering and rehabbing before getting his shot in the CFL with the Blue Bombers in training camp.

Im getting a lot of studying in the classroom and then working hard on the field, said Hicks. I need to fly around, know what Im doing and let everything else take care of itself basically. Ive been getting a lot of reps with the practice squad. The transition is smooth.

I like to get in that paint, sticking the head in their a little bit and covering the little guys. Its great. I love it.

Kent, meanwhile, spent the entire 2006 campaign with the Montreal Alouettes but was released in 2007.

He signed with Peoria of the Arena Football League 2 in 2008, but tore his ACL during training camp and was unemployed again.

Despite the setback, Kent wasnt about to let his dream die and ultimately impressed director of player personnel Ken Moll during a free agent tryout camp and signed with the Bombers.

Ive just been working out and I finally caught my break, said Kent, who spent some time as a substitute teacher back in Macon, Ga., the past few seasons before getting back into the sport he loves. It was the love of football (that kept him going) and my father (Clinton Kent Sr.) was pushing me to keep working out. I wanted to get back to the CFL, that was my main goal. I kept praying and working hard and it worked out in the end.

Now Kent is working his way up the depth chart and learning a new position.

Im going to be in the box, so I have to be more physical, said Kent, who has 17 tackles and nine special teams tackles in 2010. Ive got to get big. I like it because I would get to blitz more and Im a great tackler, thats one of my biggest assets.

Regardless of who wins the starting job this week, it appears the Bombers have two hungry players looking to make a contribution.

Were going to battle it out this week, but were going to work together, said Kent. It will work itself out.

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca


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