I’ve been away for the last little visiting my Big Brother and he’s pretty picky about cell phones in the house. After a brief 80 days, I emerged back into the world to find out it had flipped upside down from a Stampeders perspective.
Quarterback Andrew Buckley retired, as did linebacker Deron Mayo as well as offensive linemen Roman Grozman and Pierre Lavertu. That came on the heels of losing Dan Federkeil and Rob Cote to retirement and the whirlwind trade day of Charleston Hughes who eventually landed is Saskatchewan alongside Jerome Messam, who left as a free agent to Saskatchewan. Not to mention Marquay McDaniel moving on and Tommie Campbell signing in Montreal.
Finally, Roy Finch was placed on the retired list after an altercation with police that I learned about from Dave Dickenson at Fanfest here in Calgary Saturday morning. It was a slightly awkward conversation for me, having only returned to the real world about 12 hours prior. Especially because he jokingly asked for my autograph first…
After waving the pen away, I was shocked and saddened to learn about what happened with Finch.
All this tells me that the Stampeders will be a very different squad from last year’s West Division champs, but are the expectations changing? My quick answer is no. I know, shocking right?
Year after year, the Stampeders have had one of the highest player turnover ratios and yet, year after year, they have continued to dominate the regular season standings. The organization led by John Hufnagel has been the model of consistency for the last decade. The Stampeders have won 13 or more games in 7 of 10 seasons and there is no one currently on the roster from the 2008 team meaning the Stamps have gotten the most from their team no matter who has been on the field.
Let’s take a look at some of the most intriguing questions headed into this weekend’s training camp on the offensive side of the ball:
The Running Game
The last few seasons it has been Jerome Messam carrying the mail here in Calgary providing not only a consistent yards-per-carry average, but also a valuable passport as the national running back allowed flexibility elsewhere. This season, the job is wide open.
The front-runner at the moment may be Terry Williams. Despite it being against the Montreal Alouettes, Willims had 157 yards and 3 TD’s in his only start last season. New to this year’s roster are Don Jackson, Romar Morris and newly acquired Rushel Shell III. All three of these players will be competing with the incumbent Williams whose job is there for the taking should he not be able to grab it during camp.
Ricky Stanzi certainly has the inside track this season but did little to inspire confidence last year throwing two interceptions in just eight regular-season attempts. The retirement of Andrew Buckley may be the most significant roster move this season after the loss of Roy Finch.
Nick Arbuckle has been around the team for a few years now while Tyler Rogers makes an intriguing prospect for the short yardage team with 14 rushing touchdowns in his college career.
The line will look quite familiar and we see Randy Richards, Shane Bergman, Ucambre Williams, Brad Erdos and Spencer Wilson pencilled in as starters for now.
After that, the Stamps welcome back former Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Derek Dennis as well as Quinn Smith and will be hoping that first round draft pick Ryan Sceviour can slide into one of the spots left vacant by interior lineman Grozman and Lavertu.
There may still be some ratio shuffling here if Wilson doesn’t secure the tackle spot, but he has played well there when needed.
Not much change here with the notable exception of McDaniel’s departure. That loss should be tempered by the return of Lemar Durant, who is being eased into camp following a knee injury suffered last year. The combination of Durant, DaVaris Daniels, Kamar Jorden and Marken Michel alongside Juwan Brescacin, Anthony Parker and Reggie Begelton should mean a lot of familiar options for Bo Levi Mitchell.
I’ll be back to look at the defence in a day or two but I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank you all for your support as I took my reality show journey. Canada voted to save me in overwhelming numbers and the CFL community was a huge part of that. It was a humbling moment for this neophyte blogger and it meant the absolute world to me.