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May 14, 2018

Positional Breakdown | Offensive Line

Between now and the start of training camp, bclions.com rolls out positional previews for each group that will hit the field at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops on May 20th. We continue the series with a look at a re-tooled offensive line.

Hours before he was even officially introduced as General Manager in late November, Ed Hervey told us,  point blank, his number one priority: fixing some issues up front. And boy, did he ever deliver on that promise?

The new head of football operations came firing out of the gates in the opening hours of free agency, locking up three offensive linemen. The headliner of that trio is Joel Figueroa, viewed by some as the CFL’s most reliable left tackle. Veteran Jeremy Lewis and national Chris Greaves were also signed on February 13th. As of now, at least six new offensive linemen will be reporting to Kamloops on May 19th.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that man that will be coaching them. Dan Dorazio is back for his 15th season in British Columbia and 46th season of coaching. He is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

“Let’s just put it this way: retirement is not in my dictionary,” says the enthusiastic Dorazio.

“We would like to, God willing, do it for a long time.”

Wally Buono’s longtime lieutenant, the duo worked together in Calgary from 1998-2002, wouldn’t still be here if he didn’t embrace a challenge. His offensive line battled more than a couple of injuries and inconsistencies in 2017. The end result of course, although not 100 percent their fault, was a 7-11-0 record and the first non-playoff season since 1996.

“I have a sense there is going to be a competitive desire to work hard and compete, but I think the bottom line is there is going to be a toughness element that I think this line is going to undertake,” adds the veteran coach.

“We need to be tougher up front. That’s the area where we need to focus on I think. We need five guys that are going to have a relentless desire to improve every day. And that’s what toughness is. It’s just a relentless desire to improve day in and day out with what you do.”

Now, who those five up front will be once the depth chart is drawn up after pre-season could be one of the most interesting storylines to follow over these next four weeks. Just like any other situation, it is the depth behind those starters that will help determine a lot of the unit’s success. The position also tends to have a flair for the unknown. Case in point: Antonio Johnson.

The North Texas product was one of many unknown international free agents signed in the 2016 offseason and wound up winning a starting right tackle spot in his first training camp. Although he struggled himself last season, Johnson was re-signed for 2018 and will be given a chance to keep a roster spot. Overall, Dorazio has a good mix of veterans and youngsters to work with.

“I’m totally excited,” says Dorazio.

“So much goes into camp and it might be the most enjoyable time of the year. 24 hours per day, it’s football. The good thing is you’re not playing games, you’re just in the game of football. That is a great thing in my mind.”

THE OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

*newcomers in bold

Cassidy Curtis (I)- attended 2017 training camp in Edmonton and played at Eastern Washington.

Joel Figueroa– (I)- signed as free agent on February 13th after spending 2017 with Edmonton.

David Foucault (N)

Felix Gacusana Jr. (N)

Peter Godber (N)- selected third overall in 2018 CFL Draft after attending Rice University.

Chris Greaves (N)- signed as a free agent on February 13th. Greaves has 112 CFL games under his belt, split between Winnipeg, Edmonton and Montreal.

Cody Husband (N)

Antonio Johnson (I)

David Knevel (N)- selected 21st overall in 2018 CFL Draft out of Nebraska. Has committed to NFL mini-camps.

Jeremy Lewis (I)- signed as a free agent on February 13th after spending 2017 with Montreal. Lewis was a college teammate of Figeuroa’s at Miami (FLA).

Keavon Milton

Jac’que Polite (I)- signed as a free agent in January after attending training camp with the Buffalo Bills in 2017.  

Hunter Steward (N)

Charles Vaillancourt (N)

INTRIGUING NEWCOMERS

Figueroa- The Miami Hurricanes product will immediately help solidify the left side and give Jonathon Jennings some welcome added protection. That should help ease any potential anxiety number 10 has when it comes to proving he can be the player he was two seasons ago. Figeuroa’s veteran leadership will be a welcome addition from the start of training camp. He and Steward begin the season as the club’s most experienced offensive linemen.

Godber- Hervey’s rebuilding of the line didn’t stop in free agency. Godber expects to compete for a starter’s spot right away and the club’s goal was to find players at the top end of the draft would be ready to play and contribute.

KEY NUMBER

141- the number of ‘quarterback pressures’ allowed by the offence in 2017, the highest total in the CFL. By comparison, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers allowed a league-low 71.

QUOTABLE

Stay tuned for the remainder of our positional previews.

READ: Breaking Down The Special Teams

Monday, May 14th- Linebackers

Tuesday, May 15th- Running Backs

Wednesday, May 16th- Defensive Line

Thursday, May 17th- Receivers

Friday, May 18th- Defensive Backs

Saturday, May 19th- Quarterbacks

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com