The critically important 2014 CFL Draft will provide the final chapter in what the Winnipeg Blue Bombers believe was a very productive off-season.
With General Manager Kyle Walters in charge, the Bombers hired a new head coach in Mike O'Shea, revamped their entire coaching staff, bolstered their management and scouting team, added a veteran prescence to their roster, and acquired a quarterback in Drew Willy who they hope will provide some badly needed stability at that position.
The first significant moves Walters made were to hire O'Shea to replace Tim Burke as head coach, and add Ted Goveia from the Argos and Danny McManus from the Ticats as Assistant General Managers. Both Goveia and McManus, along with National Scout Drew Morris, have been instrumental in orchestrating a significant expansion of the Bombers scouting system.
Walters and O'Shea felt it was mandatory to add some veteran leadership to their young group, and they started by bringing defensive end Jason Vega back from the NFL in December. Next was the addition of 10 year CFL vet Korey Banks in a trade with the BC Lions.
Shortly after that, another veteran defensive back, Chris Randle, joined the Bombers in a trade with the Calgary Stampeders.
Free agency brought two more proven commodities into the Blue and Gold fold, as wide receiver Nick Moore, who caught 73 passes for 1,105 yards with BC in 2013 and defensive back Donovan Alexander, a Winnipeg native who was originally drafted by Montreal in 2007 both put pen to paper with Walters.
Finally, Walters and O'Shea are confident they have found the quarterback in Willy that will lead them back to contender status. Willy has spent the past two seasons with Saskatchewan and was impressive during the few playing opportunities he received with the Roughriders.
Among those added to the Winnipeg coaching staff were highly respected offensive line coach Bob Wylie, longtime CFL defensive coordinator Gary Etcheverry and former Bomber quarterback Buck Pierce, who starts his coaching career in charge of the running backs.
And now the Bombers will try to hit a home run in the May 13 Draft.
Winnipeg has the second overall pick, and Walters is on record as saying they will, in all likelihood, pick an offensive lineman that they hope will be able to immediately challenge for a starting position.
Centers Pierre Lavertu of Laval and Matthias Goossen of Simon Fraser are of particular interest to the Bombers.
"Pierre Lavertu's here now, Matthias Goossen's coming in tomorrow,'' general manager Kyle Walters told the Canadian Press on Tuesday.
"We're going to let (offensive line coach) Bob Wylie take a look at these guys, put them through a workout. The offensive staff will get them up on the board, you know, start talking about some of our systems, see how they react,'' he added.
"We're doing everything we can to make sure we make the right pick and get the right guy we want here in Winnipeg.''
With files from The Canadian Press
Bob Irving has covered the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for CJOB Radio in Winnipeg since 1973. Bob is the Sports Director at CJOB and is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, reporters division. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobIrvingCJOB