"How do you think the Blue Bombers will do this season?"
It's a question I am often asked given my position as the radio play by play voice of the team. Usually, I have some sort of sense or inkling of how the Bombers will fare (although I didn't see last year's three-win season coming), but heading into the 2014 regular season opener Thursday night against the Toronto Argonauts, my pat answer is "I have no idea."
At his media availability on Sunday, new Bomber head coach Mike O'Shea was asked if he felt his team was being viewed as a bit of a mystery. The team's new head coach responded confidently.
"I'm sure they are. But I don't get the sense that our players feel they are a mystery. I don't think they are waiting to see what they are all about. I like what we have, I like their character, the way they have responded to significant change is very positive."
O'Shea's comments were not surprising. He has been ultra-positive from the start of training camp. He says he has no concerns about any area of his football team. But he does agree, like the rest of us, that he's anxious to see how his group responds when they start playing for keeps against the Argos.
Change is everywhere with the 2014 Bombers, starting with CEO Wade Miller and GM Kyle Walters (both of whom were labeled as interim during the second half of 2013) the coaching staff led by O'Shea and eight new assistant coaches.
Quarterback Drew Willy is new, so is the backup quarterback Brian Brohm. Max Hall, who started nine games last year at quarterback and showed promise toward the end of the season, was beaten out by Brohm. Hall became the only player of note to be cut.
The go-to receiver is ex-BC Lion Nick Moore, likewise the placekicker, Canadian rookie Lirim Hajrullahu. There are new linebackers, and three new members of the starting secondary. The safety, Maurice Leggett is new. Not that there aren't some solid holdovers.
Johnny Sears, Ian Wild, Bryant Turner, Greg Peach, Jake Thomas, Glen January, Steve Morley, Clarence Denmark and Cory Watson have all earned their CFL stripes. But close to half the 44-man roster that will take the field on Thursday will be different from last year.
So, how will this all translate on the field?? That's where I'm stumped. And that's why "I have no idea" how the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will do this season. But I sure am anxious to find out.
Let the games begin.
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