June 4, 2014

Hall looking to develop sophomore savvy


WINNIPEG — He came in last year as a CFL rookie and ended up as the man stuck leading the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

It was a baptism of fire for Max Hall, and even though he ended up playing more than the rest of the team’s pivots combined, he was passed over for the starter’s job this season in favour of Drew Willy.

But Hall was the only quarterback invited to return from last year and he’s working hard to show that was a good move.

“It’s amazing the difference between this year and how I felt last year,” he said after leading a series of plays at camp that would have had Bomber fans on their feet if it happened during the regular season.

“I feel good, I had a whole season this time to get ready, I feel strong, I feel healthy, I feel like I understand what’s going on in the offence. I’m excited this year.”

Hall was brought in last season to audition as a possible replacement at some point for Buck Pierce. He was in competition with veteran backup Justin Goltz and another CFL newcomer, Chase Clement. But Hall had perhaps the best pedigree, after playing six games and starting three for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals in 2010.

Pierce went down early in 2013. After brief tries, Goltz and Clement ended up taking a backseat to Hall, who started nine of the team’s final 12 games.

The Bombers had lots of trouble last season and not just at quarterback. They allowed the most points in the CFL and had an offensive line that struggled to provide consistent protection.

New general manager Kyle Walters and rookie head coach Mike O’Shea were brought in to change all that and the coach is pleased what  he’s seen at training camp so far.

That includes Hall, although O’Shea says he isn’t ready yet to say who will back up Willy, or much about who will fill any other position just yet.

“Max does a lot of things really well,” O’Shea said Wednesday.

“From what I saw on film last year and from what (offensive coordinator) Marcel (Bellefeuille) knew of him last year, I would say he’s improved a lot. It’s probably comfort with the system and a change in the system, with Marcel making some changes from last year.”

Bellefeuille was also a mid-season addition in 2013 as the Bombers sacked former offensive coordinator Gary Crowton.

Camp was only four days old Wednesday but Hall says things are already coming together more for the quarterbacks.

“As the camp’s gone on I think you can see the timing of the routes and the throws are getting better,” he said.

“As quarterbacks we feel more comfortable with where they’re (receivers) going to be. We know where to put the ball . . . And as you can see, a lot more completions on the field.”

Injuries, meanwhile, continued this week at camp.

Linebacker Ejiro Kuale limped off the field Wednesday with what O’Shea said was a turned ankle but defensive tackle Ryan Lucas is gone for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Running back Will Ford didn’t practice Wednesday because of a hamstring issue and offensive lineman Tyson Pencer was absent with flu-like symptoms.