Bombers pick OL Pencer

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:02 AM ET

WINNIPEG - For the second time in six months, the B.C. Lions beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

This time, it wasn’t on the field.

The Bombers had lined up a trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday going into the CFL draft, with the intention of grabbing stud Eastern Michigan defensive end Jabar Westerman at No. 3 overall.

However, the Lions, who beat the Bombers in last November’s Grey Cup, went one step further, trading with the Edmonton Eskimos to get to No. 2 and steal Westerman from the Blue and Gold.

“We didn’t have enough firepower to get up to two,” GM Joe Mack said.

The Bombers heard rumblings the Lions were also after Westerman, so they weren’t totally surprised when it happened but were still peeved. They got over it quickly and moved to Plan B, a hulking beast of an offensive lineman named Tyson Pencer, whom Winnipeg hopes will one day be a starting tackle.

The Blue and Gold gave their No. 8 and 13 selections to the Ticats for the right to grab the 6-foot-8, 330-pound Pencer at No. 3. Mack said Pencer, Westerman and Saskatchewan’s first overall choice, offensive lineman Ben Heenan, were the only three players they saw fitting into a starting role for them one day, so they had to act. He will still be a project, however.

“We think he has the chance to be eventually maybe a tackle and maybe a ratio changer,” Mack said.

Others aren’t so sure. Pencer played two seasons at Washington State University, but he left the school last summer for academic reasons. He then played a handful of games with the Okanagan Sun junior team in Kelowna, B.C., last summer.

He was ninth on the CFL Scouting Bureau’s list of top 15 prospects in September, but he was nowhere to be seen when the final ranking was released last week. Pencer is athletic, but the jury is out on whether or not he can play. It’s the same situation with Winnipeg’s fourth overall pick last year, receiver Jade Etienne.

Mack relied on the film he watched of Pencer during his two seasons at Washington State, where he went up against some of the NCAA’s top players.

“He has some technique work (to do), but the young man’s coming from B.C. to compete against USC and Oregon right away,” Mack said. “To be able to do that and handle himself is a big plus.”

Some wondered why the Bombers didn’t simply wait to get Pencer at No. 8, considering it appeared his stock had fallen, but Mack said they didn’t think he would still be there. Pencer was over the moon after going so soon.

“This is something I dreamed of since I first started playing football at five years old, was for this opportunity and this chance, and it finally came true,” he said from his Delta, B.C., home. “Growing up watching the CFL, being a fan, being a fan of the Bombers, this adds on to the dream.

“… I see myself playing guard and eventually moving out to tackle. My goal would eventually be to play tackle, but if that takes moving inside for a bit and learning the position better then moving back outside, if that’s what it takes that’s what I’m going to do.”

The Bombers also took Queen’s receiver Johnny Aprile (16th), Georgia State defensive end Christo Bilukidi (21st), Harding linebacker Rene Stephan (23rd) and Acadia defensive tackle Jake Thomas (29th).

University of Manitoba Bisons receiver Quincy Hurst went 28th to the Toronto Argonauts, who desperately need Canadian pass catchers.

“I feel like I could have an opportunity to play fairly early and really help the team as a vertical threat,” said Hurst, a Coquitlam, B.C., native who didn’t play for the Bisons last season.

WR Johnny Aprile

• Drafted: 3rd round, 16th overall

• School: Queen’s Golden Gaels

• Age: 22

• Ht/Wt: 6-foot-2, 208 lbs

• Hometown: Toronto

• Mack says: “He has the chance to be a very good special teams player, and we think his versatility potentially at wide receiver and free safety will be real interesting for us.”

DE Christo Bilukidi

• Drafted: 3rd round, 21st overall

• School: Georgia State Panthers

• Age: 22

• Ht/Wt: 6-foot-6, 290 lbs

• Hometown: Ottawa

• Mack says: “Historically, the sixth and seventh-round (NFL) picks aren’t a lock to make the team, so we decided why not take a chance on a Canadian defensive lineman at this point in the draft who has some real athletic skills.”

LB Rene Stephan

• Drafted: 4th round, 23rd overall

• School: Harding (Ark.) University Bisons

• Age: 23

• Ht/Wt: 6-foot-1, 225 lbs

• Hometown: San Jose, Calif.

• Mack says: “He ran well (at the evaluation camp). We also do some psychological tests, and his was very, very high. So even though he hadn’t played in a while, we thought there was enough upside.”

DT Jake Thomas

• Drafted: 4th round, 29th overall

• School: Acadia Axemen

• Age: 21

• Ht/Wt: 6-foot-2, 270 lbs

• Hometown: Douglas, N.B.

• Mack says: “If he was an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier he would’ve got drafted high. He’s real physical, very good motor, good effort.”


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