WINNIPEG - Most CFL teams know either the identities or the positions of their seven Canadian starters at all times.
If they lose one via free agency, they usually go out and buy another one. The not-so-good teams can sometimes find starters with the first few picks of the draft.
It appears the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are going to have an interesting training camp, because right now they essentially know where only six of their CFL-mandated seven Canadians are going to play.
Ian Logan will start at safety, they will have three non-import offensive linemen, and Kito Poblah and Cory Watson are pencilled in to be starting receivers.
After that it’s a big fat question mark.
“Obviously the roster and ratio changes as things go on, but right now you start out with what it was last year and you see if you have the talent to change it,” head coach Paul LaPolice said on Monday.
“… It doesn’t concern me. Our coaches are still analyzing what the best direction is to go, and we’re looking at flexibility. It always happens. Somebody always has to step up and be a guy.”
Pierre-Luc Labbe started the Grey Cup at middle linebacker, but only because import Joe Lobendahn suffered a torn ACL midway through last season and Marcellus Bowman was performing better at his natural position of weak-side linebacker.
The first overall draft pick from last year, Henoc Muamba, missed the first half of the season but was a dominant special teamer for the remainder of the campaign. LaPolice doesn’t know if he’s ready to start at middle linebacker, though.
“No idea,” LaPolice said. “Henoc at the end of the year was our best special teams player. Time will tell with him as it goes, but we were very happy with the kid.”
Lobendahn was having a stellar season when he suffered his injury, and he is back in Winnipeg rehabilitating the injury. LaPolice said the plan is for him to be in training camp, but he added things can always change.
The other Canadian who had substantial playing time last season is defensive lineman Fernand Kashama, who saw time at defensive end last season. A combination of playing Kashama on first down and Labbe on second could also work.
After that the non-import depth is a little thin, but LaPolice is confident the well will be re-filled. He noted all but one of the eight Canadian players they either drafted or signed as exemptions finished the season on a CFL roster.
“We’ve done a good job identifying the talent we need,” LaPolice said, “and hopefully we can continue to do it this year.”
The Bombers don’t have a first-round pick after taking Poblah in last year’s supplemental draft. Their first selection is 13th overall, but you can bet they’re looking to move up.
“There’s going to be good value all the way through the draft,” LaPolice said.
LATE HIT: GM Joe Mack is conducting free agent camps and doing individual workouts in the U.S. this month. The Bombers have 60 players under contract, so they only need another eight to fill out their training camp roster.