From now until the start of the 2021 training camp on July 10, bclions.com will provide a positional breakdown series to preview all the new and familiar faces, who will be taking the field at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops. We’ll continue this series with our receivers.
The Lions receiving core is stacked when it comes to providing Michael Reilly with a very generous amount of weapons on offence. Although the focal point may point towards Bryan Burnham when it comes to our receivers, there are also a couple of returning local and Canadian receivers who will frustrate the opposing defence on game day.
Burnham currently sits at 10th on the club’s all-time receiving yards list. If he dishes out another all-star calibre year, there’s a high chance Burnham could climb up to fourth in the club’s history books.
Wide receivers coach Jason Tucker is assured that the cornerstone of the offence will be ready to lead when the team takes the field in less than a week.
“For him, it’s to just continue doing what he’s been doing, be the leader that he is on and off the field,” Tucker said.
Then, there is Lemar Durant, the Coquitlam product who was less than 200 yards away from a 1,000 receiving yard season in 2019. Durant is heading into his sixth CFL season, with 159 receptions for 2,090 yards and 13 total touchdowns under his belt.
Shaq Johnson joined the club in 2016 and has worked his way up to be a valuable target on the offence. Johnson finished the 2019 season with 39 receptions for 597 yards and two touchdowns.
Jevon Cottoy, the Langley Rams alumni who was nominated as the team’s Most Outstanding Rookie in 2019, brought a huge boost to the offence when he hauled in 38 passes for 386 yards and scored his first career CFL touchdown in Week six against Saskatchewan on July 20, 2019. Cottoy decided to return to BC two weeks ago after opting out of the club to pursue NFL opportunities. He most recently attended a workout with the San Francisco 49ers.
These returning playmakers enjoyed a solid production on the offence in 2019, but the team still finished the year with a 5-13 record. After battling through a hectic season, they’re deemed for a rebound season — eyeing the playoffs and further.
“They got to come in with the right mindset. They do have the experience; they know what to expect from the league and they know what it takes. So now it’s just applying to everything,” Tucker said.
There are a few more players to keep an eye on during training camp. They were acquired during the last two offseason free agencies that’ll provide plenty of experience. The two additions that some already knew about were Dominique Rhymes from the Ottawa REDBLACKS and Lucky Whitehead from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. And Jacob Scarfone, the Guelph Gryphons standout appeared in 11 games for Ottawa in 2018-19, he’ll also make the trip from Ontario to join everyone else in Kamloops. Jesse Walker, the Langley Rams product attended Lions training camp back in 2019, he’s back again in 2021 competing with the rest of the receivers.
Rhymes, the 28-year-old wideout enjoyed a breakout season in 2019 when he found his groove in the CFL when he registered 65 receptions for 1065 yards and five touchdowns.
“Other guys have been playing together for a few years. Dom is new to the group, one thing about receivers is that most guys get in pretty quickly. Once they get that chemistry together and gel together then the sky is the limit,” Tucker said.
Whitehead, the 29-year-old receiver and return specialist has the Dallas Cowboys connection with Tucker, who both served as a member of America’s team in their own times. Tucker is excited to have a player like Whitehead on board because of his explosiveness on the offence and the return game.
“To be his receiver coach and get to work with that type of guy, we can put him in different situations and he’s going to do good things when the ball is in his hands,” Tucker added.
And the only Canadian rookie receiver is Cordell Hastings, who was selected in the fifth round of the 2020 CFL Draft. The Calgary native was a three-time AUS all-star for Acadia University. His ability to box opponents out like a basketball player and win the jump ball earned Hastings a chance to display them in person at Kamloops.
The rest of the receiving group will include the usual mix of exciting rookies. Don’t count them out yet because Burnham and Emmanuel Arceneaux were once in their shoes when they first entered the league. They turned out to be a game-changer for the Lions and are now among the Lions’ top 10 receiving list.
“When I talked to them about these camps is that they’re not long. You have to showcase what you have the day you step onto the field for the first time. You can’t wait to show who you are. I told them to make it tough on me and the coaches. That way you give yourself all the opportunity to make this team,” Tucker said.
Intriguing Newcomers Amongst Receivers
Cordell Hastings (N): Not only will Hastings compete for a spot at Kamloops but he was also drafted by the Calgary Roughnecks in the 2019 NLL Draft. The dual-sport athlete has a desire to play both sports professionally.
Dominique Rhymes (A): He led the Ottawa REDBLACKS in receiving yards two years ago, the 6’4’’ wideout will aim for another productive season in orange and black.
Jacob Scarfone (N): He caught 109 passes for 1,789 yards and 17 touchdowns throughout his university career at Guelph University. Scarfone signed with the Lions as a free agent this January.
Lucky Whitehead (A): He went through triumph with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2019, where he registered 52 receptions for 531 yards and two scores. On kickoff returns, Whitehead took one to the house against Toronto in week five of the 2019 season.
“My family had a big part of my decision to come back, but if I thought we were going to go out there and put the same product we put on the field as we did in 2019, I wouldn’t be back. I’m at a point of my career where all that matters now is winning and I want to win,” said Burnham on Feb 1, 2021, when he re-signed with the Lions.