May 16, 2019

Front and Centre: Stamps have big plans for Sceviour

David Chidley/

CALGARY — As recent CFL Draft picks file into rookie camps across the league, the next few weeks will be equally critical for some 2018 draft choices.

Of the seven offensive linemen drafted in the first round one year ago, only one has locked up a full-time starting job going into his sophomore campaign in Ticats guard Darius Ciraco.

While ninth overall pick Ryan Hunter (Toronto) remains south of the border, five other players are looking for jobs in the coming weeks.

Ryan Sceviour, picked eighth overall by the Stamps last season out of the University of Calgary, will have every opportunity to become the new starting centre starting this week at McMahon Stadium.

“Well I feel that Ryan Sceviour has shown to be ready to play and he has to earn it, but man he’s working hard and he really wants it,” said Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson.

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After a polished career with the Dinos, Sceviour played one game in 2018 and didn’t start any. His potential, however, may have inspired the Stampeders make room for him, as John Hufnagel revealed this off-season the team will start just two American offensive linemen instead of three.

Ucambre Williams will compete to start at right tackle, opening the centre job for either Sceviour or another sophomore in  2018 fifth-round pick Justin Lawrence.

“He’s a local guy, we really liked him out of the draft but it just didn’t play out for him last year,” Dickenson said of Sceviour. “By saying that, you’ve got to give him a chance. We got [Shane] Bergman back and [Brad] Erdos back as the other guard, so we thought, ‘why not give him a shot at center?’”

If all else fails, Dickenson points out the team has the ratio flexibility to move Williams back to centre. But playing three Canadian linemen on the inside, which is the standard across the Canadian game, gives the team more options elsewhere.

Last year Sceviour was a spectator while the Stamps allowed a league-low 27 sacks (tied with Saskatchewan) en route to winning the 106th Grey Cup Championship in Edmonton.

After 11 of the team’s 24 starters from last year’s Grey Cup have since left the team, Sceviour isn’t the only one looking to expand his portfolio this spring.

“That’s almost fifty percent, that’s a crazy stat,” said Dickenson. “Do I love it? No. But if I was a young player, I would want to make my name and get out there and show people what I can do.

“For me,” the former quarterback recalled, “I had to wait until Jeff Garcia left, and I felt like I could play, but that’s what it took. If that’s what some of these other guys can do and run with it, that’s certainly the hope.”

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Football teams always thrive on a competitive camp environment, but there’s even more than usual at stake this spring.

The Stamps’ secondary is anchored by veterans Jamar Wall and Brandon Smith, but Adam Berger‘s sudden retirement has opened up a hole at safety while Emanuel Davis and Ciante Evans remain unsigned.

On the defensive line, Ja’Gared Davis inked a free agent deal with the Ticats, while Micah Johnson became one of the CFL’s highest-paid defensive players when he signed with the rival Roughriders.

At linebacker, Wynton McManis will try to fill one of two major openings after Alex Singleton and Jameer Thurman left for the NFL.

“If you think about it, we lost three because Maleki [Harris] left to BC,” noted Dickenson. “I really like what we’ve got there. We worked really hard to find the best competition. We’ve got different athletes, we’ve got size, and we’ve got hitters and we’ve got people who run well.

“With Cory Greenwood we’ve got a quality guy – at 34 years old he’s not young – let’s give him a chance. Wynton McManis’ arrow is up. Those two guys, they’ve got the inside track.”

The competition even carries over to receiver, where Kamar Jorden remains without a timeline since suffering a season-ending knee injury last Labour Day. Reggie Begelton, Markeith Ambles and Canadian Juwan Brescacin are all expected to make strides in 2019, while No. 1 receiver Eric Rogers is just trying to stay healthy.

Clearly, after making just one notable free agent signing in Canadian defensive back Courtney Stephen, the Stamps will once again look to promote from within — as has been their mantra for as long as General Manager John Hufnagel has been around.

At the very least it promises to be a competitive camp in Calgary.

– With files from