Giddy about Bisons

SCOTT UNGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

University of Manitoba Bisons head coach Brian Dobie is excited about his football team this season. Make that really excited.

The Bisons officially kicked off their training camp yesterday and Dobie, in his usual fashion, couldn't stop gushing about his team that will have 20 of their 24 starters from last fall return.

"When you have a veteran team ... ya, there are some high expectations of course," Dobie said.

But those lofty expectations aren't specific to Manitoba, according to Dobie.

"I look across the board in our conference and it's like that all the way across the board. Everybody will take a step up," he said.

The offence will return virtually intact, having only lost starting centre Terry Watson. So with that and the Bisons 8-0 record from last season, the optimism is warranted.

PRESSURE

"Ya, there is pressure on offence to get it done with that kind of situation because this is an offence that led the nation in scoring last season," the head coach said.

"It's going to be hard to repeat that. It's not an automatic just because it was done last year and the same group is back. People will game plan differently for us. Different things will happen."

Manitoba will have to absorb three losses to their starting lineup on the defensive side of the ball, with the biggest hole to fill being Cory Huclack's linebacker spot. The Winnipegger has moved onto the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes.

"We're interested to see how the new guys fit in," Bisons defensive co-ordinator Stan Pierre said. "I think if we can get some good competition at those spots and get real good play out of there, we should be fine."

That will probably change the identity that Manitoba's defence has.

"If the guys come out of it that we project, we'll probably be a more athletic group than we were last year," Pierre figures.

Following last seasons 8-0 regular season record, the Bisons were punted from the playoffs at home by the Saskatchewan Huskies in the Canada West final. That has been a bitter pill that members of the Bisons have had to swallow every day during the off-season.

"We're going to have a team meeting to begin things (tomorrow) night and essentially that's what we're going to talk about," Dobie said.

"We're going to talk about the word finish, in every sense of the word, whether it's a technique deal, whether it's a systems deal or whether it's a games deal.

"It was frustrating last year."

With the slew of returning players back to finish what they started last season, Dobie doesn't see a whole lot of room for new players to crack the starting line.

"It's going to be tough for the young guys," Dobie acknowledged.

"That's how I've recruited. I've been straight up and said this is a veteran team that you are potentially coming into if you make this decision to come to Manitoba."


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