OTTAWA — The more things change the more they stay the same, or so hopes Ottawa REDBLACKS head coach Rick Campbell.
Last year’s Grey Cup runner-ups have lost a few key pieces, from four starters on defence to the offensive coordinator that engineered the CFL’s leading offence. But while holes opened up on both sides of the ball, Campbell and GM Marcel Desjardins have approached each side a little differently.
Spots left by the departed Keith Shologan, Justin Capicciotti, Brandyn Thompson and Jovon Johnson can be filled through free agent tryouts, mini-camp and position battles in training camp – unlike on offence, where more familiarity is required.
“We’re always going to work to get better and tweak things and do all that, but I wanted for our players on the offensive side of the ball not to have to deal with something brand new again,” said the head coach entering his third season at the helm of the REDBLACKS.
Jaime Elizondo takes over the REDBLACKS’ offence in place of the departed Maas
Elizondo was an offensive coordinator for the Argos in the past while last year he served as a receivers coach under Scott Milanovich, coaching the same philosophy Maas learned under him as a quarterbacks coach. All coaches have their differences, but a lot of the terminology and philosophy remains the same – something Campbell considered strongly when having to hire his third offensive coordinator in as many years.
“He’s very familiar with the terminology we’re going to use,” Campbell said of Elizondo in the same interview. “We wanted to keep that continuity and build it at the same time.
“He’s been a coordinator before, both in college football in the CFL and he’s worked with quarterbacks before as well so he’s got a good handle on the offence and knows what he’s doing and it’ll be good continuity for us.”
Harris, Ottawa’s biggest off-season addition, may serve an observatory role in his first season in the nation’s capital as he serves as a backup to Henry Burris. But his knowledge of the offence the REDBLACKS will run can help the team whether he’s playing or not next season, and certainly beyond then when he’s expected to take the reins on his own.
Asked in the interview what the REDBLACKS are getting in Harris, Campbell’s best response was simply: “He’s a good one.”
“The thing I don’t like about it is he beat us three times,” said Campbell, “so that part wasn’t good for us. But that just shows you he’s definitely a guy that competes and works hard and he’s a good decision-maker on the field.
“He understands the offence and the terminology we’re going to use is the same as he’s used to, so there’s some continuity there.”
“The thing I don’t like about it is he beat us three times, so that part wasn’t good for us. But that just shows you he’s definitely a guy that competes and works hard and he’s a good decision-maker on the field.”
And when push comes to shove, continuity is what the REDBLACKS are looking for.
The 2016 off-season has been one of mass change, most teams going through substantial transformation on both sides of the ball – including the Edmonton Eskimos, who defeated the REDBLACKS in the Grey Cup.
If, despite just a few key departures, continuity is what Campbell and Desjardins feel they’ve achieved, another run into late November could be in store for the third-year Ottawa REDBLACKS.