Making a case for Bombers' Rico

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:35 AM ET

WINNIPEG - It was one of the hardest hits a Bomber dished out all season long.

Rookie linebacker Rico McCoy absolutely drilled Calgary Stampeders running back Jon Cornish during a kickoff return in Winnipeg’s regular-season finale last November.

Cornish fumbled the ball and left the contest with a concussion, while McCoy left a lasting impression on the brains of Bomber brass. The late signee in 2010 is back in Winnipeg this year with the goal of unseating Joe Lobendahn as the team’s starting middle linebacker.

“Those two will be battling it out for that job,” defensive co-ordinator Tim Burke said Thursday. “Joe’s going to have to come back to the form he was in two years ago. If he has the same kind of year as he had last year, there’s a good chance he’ll get beat out.”

McCoy remembers popping Cornish last fall, but, like every linebacker, he wants to do it again and again and again.

“It was nice, but I want to show a lot more,” McCoy said after Day 2 of rookie camp at Canad Inns Stadium. “I want 10- to 12-tackle games. I want to show what I do, what I’ve been doing all my career — making a bunch of tackles, being a tackling machine.”

McCoy spent the winter in Knoxville, Tenn., working out with former teammates at the University of Tennessee, where he was a second-team SEC all-star in both his junior and senior seasons.

The Washington, D.C., native joined the Bombers with only two weeks left in the 2010 campaign, so just when he started getting used to the wide CFL field he headed back home again. Despite the inexperience, Burke said the 23-year-old has shown the ability to adapt well.

“He’s got a steeper learning curve than Joe does. Joe’s been in the league a while,” Burke said. “But he’s a smart guy, he comes from a great football background, and his work ethic is excellent. He seems to grasp everything we’ve thrown at him.”

Burke has also been impressed with the third player in the mix at middle linebacker, first overall pick Henoc Muamba.

“He’s going to definitely provide some great depth for us this year and compete for the starting (middle linebacker) job next year,” Burke said.

“Eventually you’d like him to fulfil a role like Shea (Emry) did for us in Montreal. His rookie year, he wasn’t very good. He was a real good special teams player, but he wasn’t a great linebacker. When he came back to camp the next year he was a great linebacker.”


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