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May 16, 2018

Retooled D-line highlights new look Leos heading to camp

Just how determined was Ed Hervey on beefing up the defensive line in his first offseason as BC Lions’ General Manager? All you have to do is consider this nugget: ten of the 15 reporting to Kamloops will be newcomers. Some can also foresee three or four potential full-time starters that were not in orange last year.

Although there were some tough decisions to be made at other positions, most notably the secondary, the former Eskimos receiver and football ops. boss knew how he wanted his new defence to be built.

“What you take away from the secondary, you give to the defensive line,” Hervey stated as his mantra this offseason.

And his work drew lots of praise from critics. After swinging separate trades for veterans Odell Willis and Gabriel Knapton, Hervey was able to land Julien Laurent following a trade with Winnipeg for the seventh overall pick in this month’s CFL Draft. Add to that the annual assortment of rookie international free agents, and we should be in for one heck of a battle starting this Sunday at Hillside Stadium.

One aspect of the defensive line that brings about some familiarity is the man coaching them. Randy Melvin is back after serving as the club’s defensive line coach in the championship season of 2011. More recently, he was a guest coach in 2017 training camp, drawing rave reviews from some of the younger players.

“It’s awesome,” Melvin said about returning to the den.

“It’s coaching. I enjoy what I do and I’m very excited to be back.”

Any 30-year veteran of the coaching world will tell you they are only as good as the players they have at their disposal. When breaking down some of the newcomers and returnees, Melvin likes what he sees, but won’t get too excited until the ultimate goal is within reach.

“When I go into a situation, I treat it all the same. We are creatures of habit and guys have some history. I’m really excited to work with them and we’ll try to pull it together as a unit and as a team,” he explained.

“I think I’m coming into a great situation. One, that I was here last summer, got to work with them and see how they worked. So there’s some familiarity there. And then their willingness to learn at that time. I don’t expect anything different.”

Melvin brings an impressive coaching resume to the revamped unit. Along with earning a Grey Cup here seven years ago, Melvin was on Bill Belichick’s staff when they won their first Super Bowl to conclude the 2000 NFL season. In that title game victory, Melvin’s defensive line played a big part in slowing down the St. Louis Rams offence that was dubbed the ‘Greatest Show On Turf.’

With a solid mixture of national and international defensive linemen (full list below) coming to this year’s camp, he expects the competition to be intense from the first whistle.

“It’s ferocious because, at the end of the day, that’s how you get better, ” Melvin claimed.

“Human nature says if you’re comfortable you won’t push as hard. We want it to be fierce, we want pressure and that’s kind of how it will operate.”

He may not have Brent Johnson, Aaron Hunt and Eric Taylor at his disposal this time, but some of his current pieces will have a big say in how successful 2018 may be.