June 14, 2014

Preview: Battles loom as Stamps host Bombers

Bombers, Stampeders


CALGARY – Drew Willy gets another shot to learn the Winnipeg offence while Bo Levi Mitchell continues his attempt to take the no. 1 spot in Calgary as the Stampeders host the Blue Bombers Saturday afternoon at McMahon Stadium.

Willy made his first appearance in Blue and Gold last week in the CFL’s pre-season opener vs. Toronto and he didn’t look out of place.  Entering his first year as a starting quarterback, the University of Buffalo product completed 50 per cent of his passes for 108 yards and a touchdown pass in just over a quarter of work versus the Argonauts last week.

While Willy was the pivot everyone had an eye on in Week A of pre-season, another gunslinger proved that he deserves a shot to crack the roster.  Purdue grad Robert Marve was 3 of 4 passing and threw for a touchdown but although his stats weren’t going top make anyone take notice, his composure did.

Marve stepped in off the bench and immediately took control of the offence, making the most of his limited reps.

“Monday was an awesome experience being here in Winnipeg,” Marve said. “We got the drive at the end, had some fun with it. I really wish we got the two point conversion but we might be saving it for next game. This game coming up I’m excited for, whatever the coaches ask of me and hopefully we get the W”

Defensively, the Bombers are in search of their identity under an entirely new coaching staff.

New head coach Mike O’Shea eluded to the fact that he may be looking for more speed than size when evaluation in training camp.

“The bigger and slower you are, the easier it is for the bigger and slower offensive linemen to get you,” O’Shea told CFL.ca’s Bob Irving earlier this week. “That is one of the theories behind Gary’s philosophy.  If you are undersized and you move very well, it’s a nightmare for offensive linemen to try to get a hold of them.

“Jake Thomas moves very well, he will slingshot himself around guys and sneak through gaps. Offensive linemen have a real hard time getting their hands on the smaller defensive players.

“I’m looking forward to seeing this reincarnation of Gary Etcheverry’s defence come Week 3 of the season because what you saw in the opening pre-season game was a very basic model of it. There will be a lot more depth to it as we go along.”

In Calgary, the situation under centre is a lot more unclear in a place where depth hasn’t been a problem for quite some time.

Mitchell and Drew Tate are currently battling it out for the right to start in Week 1, but there is competition at plenty of other spots – namely along the offensive line.  The departure of Dimitri Tsoumpas (retirement) and John Gott (traded to Ottawa on draft day) have left voids in the trenches.  A spectacular opportunity for Canadians Spencer Wilson, Brander Craighead and 2014 first overall pick Pierre Lavertu.

Back to the quarterbacks, head coach John Hufnagel isn’t tipping anyone off as to who may have the inside track on the position.

“I hope it’s a tight contest when it comes to decision day,” Hufnagel told Stampeders.com.  “They both have had excellent training camps and I know they are very excited about this opportunity.

“I can’t say (who has the nod) to be perfectly honest. Some days one may have a better practice than the other quarterback but it’s very close.”

Saturday also remarks the return of the always outspoken receiver Nik Lewis to the Calgary offence.  The veteran pass-catcher is coming back from an injury which sidelined him for  most of last year.  Hufnagel confirmed on Friday that Lewis is expected to play the first quarter.

Kickoff is at 6:00pm ET and can be seen on TSN2 and on ESPN3.