Camp is officially underway. Saturday’s short walktrhough at Hillside Stadium was the first official on-field activity of any kind for the squad since November 2nd, 2019. And let me just say, damn it feels great. The beauty of Kamloops never fails to disappoint either. Even if it will be a different kind of routine to start 2021 as we continue to adhere to certain pandemic rules, having football back is great no matter what the circumstance! With all of that, comes a few interesting storylines as we prepare to hit the field in 2021.
All of this will be worth monitoring from the get-go.
Intensity… Expect It
The fact many of those on the Lions camp roster haven’t played a snap in many months should be all the motivation needed. Also, consider they are coming out of two weeks of quarantine and likely hundreds of ZOOM meetings in the last several months. Yeah, it’s time to play football. Head coach Rick Campbell will make sure the guys don’t go too crazy, especially in the early goings.
“We’re going to ramp things up day by day,” Campbell said.
“The way football has gone, pre-pandemic the last couple of years, we never practice in shoulder pads the entire season. The physical part of it comes in games.”
The first padded practice comes Monday evening. That one should be a dandy to watch. The fact no pre-season games will be played will be another cause for plenty of intense practices. One of the many great storylines.
Without the pre-season games, three scrimmages will be held at Hillside Stadium on July 17th, 24th and 29th before camp breaks.
Michael and Four Hungry Hopefuls
QB1 is ready to roll. Now the big question. Who emerges behind Michael on the depth chart? We outlined in our positional breakdown series that there are four solid pivots vying for some reps in the offence. Veteran Will Arndt was a free agent addition from the Ottawa REDBLACKS. He is expected to fit in nicely, given the offence will be similar to what he was used to in the nation’s capital.
After that, three exciting rookies will be showing their stuff. Victoria-born Nathan Rourke finally makes his Lions camp debut along with two young Americans: former Michigan star Shea Patterson and D’Angelo Fulford who led Mount Union to a Division III national title in 2017.
“We’re not expecting the moment to be too big for either of those guys,” said offensive coordinator Jordan Maksymic on the two Americans.
As for the chance to see Rourke up close, Maksymic added: “He has exceptional arm talent. The athleticism and ability to run just adds more to his game. It would be beneficial to try to get him on the field when we can.”
Who Emerges On The Defensive Line?
Change was inevitable after such a long layoff. One area that will take some getting used to is a defensive line that won’t have any starters back from the 2019 season. Veterans J.R. Tavai and Chris Casher will be counted on for veteran leadership. The rest is an intriguing mix of players with big-game college and NFL experience.
Those names include Lewis Neal, a former Dallas Cowboy and standout at LSU, former New Orleans Saint and New York Jet Obum Gwachum and Ufomba Kamalu who earned a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots in the 2018 season. But that’s far from the only ones worth watching.
Not One, But Two Canadian Draft Classes
Young National talent is always an exciting aspect of any given camp. This year, the coaches will have a total of nine Canadians drafted in 2020 and 2021 to look at. We mentioned Rourke above. 2020 1st overall pick Jordan X. Williams will have a decent shot to stand out at one of the linebacker positions. The rest of the 2020 class includes defensive lineman Court Hammond, offensive lineman Matt Guevremont, running back Kayden Johnson, wide receiver Cordell Hastings and linebacker Damian Jamieson.
Three of five 2021 draft picks are in Kamloops: UBC linebacker Ben Hladik, defensive lineman Alfred Green and offensive lineman Tyler Packer. These battles will be epic!