When the University of Manitoba Bisons football team opened training camp this past weekend, probably the biggest area of intrigue came in the secondary.
There are plenty of returning faces, but the new ones are making the decisions tough on the coaching staff.
Of course, those coaches like the built-in competition that comes when players are competing for roster spots.
"That was part of the focus coming into camp," Bisons defensive coordinator Stan Pierre said yesterday.
To encourage the competition, the coaches have added some friendly wagers to practice drills, such as pushups.
"In the first few practices, we're enthusiastic about the play of our vets and the new guys," Pierre added. "We should be well-rounded."
One of the newcomers looking for a starting spot is Jon Hooton, who's been converted from quarterback, where the Bisons are deep, to defensive back.
"So far, so good," Hooton said of his early work at the new position. "There's been a few mishaps that need to be worked out, but things have gone well."
After playing two seasons with Manitoba, Hooton sat out last season because of the depth at quarterback. When told by head coach Brian Dobie over the winter his days playing pivot for the Bisons were over, Hooton simply moved to another position.
"I would have taken anything, but I feel this is suited for me," Hooton said.
But switching sides of the ball is never easy.
"It's different going from standing up and seeing the whole play to trying to get as low as possible," the ex-QB said. "Everything is a little bit backwards. Both sides have their ups and downs."
Hooton worked hard during the off-season to prepare for his return.
"Everyone is a little rusty after the summer, so we're getting the kinks worked out right now. There's no messing around now though. We're here to earning a starting spot."
For veterans, fifth-year free safety Bobby Riest will provide some leadership in the defensive backfield no matter how the position battles play out.
"There is a level of comfort there," Riest said. "We have some veterans back there which makes it easy.
"We've got a few young guys that are challenging for spots. It's good that they are pushing and it's good competition. It makes you want to be better."