Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images
It can be a meat-grinder business sometimes, chewing up and spitting out prospects almost as quickly as a name is scribbled on a contract.
That’s life in professional football, and that reality comes as players chase the dream of running out of a tunnel in front of a capacity crowd in a game that means something in the standings – or means everything with a championship on the line.
That meat-grinder-meets-dream process begins for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Wednesday morning at IG Field with the opening of rookie camp, followed by main camp Sunday morning.
This is a veteran squad that returns much of the same lineup that went 15-3 last year before falling by one point in the Grey Cup in their quest for a third straight title.
Even with that roster stability there will be changes, with the rookies having the first chance to impress in the days leading up to the first preseason game in Edmonton on Saturday, May 27th vs. the Elks before the Saskatchewan Roughriders pay a visit to IG Field in the final dress rehearsal on June 2nd.
The curtain lifts on the regular season at home against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on June 9th.
Here’s a quick primer to get fans ready for the three-day rookie camp:
FIVE TO WATCH
Topping our ‘To Watch’ list a year ago was receiver Dalton Schoen, who then went on to lead the Canadian Football League in receiving and being named the league’s Most Outstanding Rookie. That’s a high bar, but here are a handful of fresh faces to begin tracking now:
#90 DE Jadrian Taylor: The Blue Bombers could use some import depth behind Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat and Taylor, who spent two years at UTEP, is one of the candidates to track during camp.
LB Barrington Wade: Has had NFL looks from Baltimore and Denver, has impressive testing numbers, and caught the eye of Bombers scout Cyril Penn last year at Broncos training camp.
WR Michael Young: Played his college ball at both Notre Dame and Cincinnati before NFL opportunities last year from Indianapolis and Houston. The Blue Bombers receiving corps is stacked, but that doesn’t stop management from looking.
#49 LB Gee Stanley: An intriguing prospect in that he can play linebacker and could also get a look at the Dime spot. That versatility can be key in the CFL.
DE Aaron Sterling: Similar situation to Taylor, listed above. Check out Cyril Penn’s piece on him from late March here: https://www.bluebombers.com/2023/03/28/tales-from-the-scouting-trail-aaron-sterling/
Zach Collaros and Dru Brown are locked in to 1-2 on the depth chart. Here are the QBs hoping to push for work:
#3 Tyrrell Pigrome: Comes directly to the Blue Bombers from Towson State, where he thew for 1,638 yards and 14 TDs last year while rushing for 574 yards and two more scores.
#15 Josh Jones: Spent last year at UNC-Pembrooke. Big pivot at 6-3, 220 who had 2,302 passing yards and 13 TDs while rushing for another 219 yards.
#16 Billy Hall: Another QB prospect who can get it done with his arm and his legs. Threw for 45 TDs over three years at Reinhardt University while rushing for 17 more TDs.
#18 Cooper Callis: Finished up his collegiate career at Southwest Baptist University. Over three years there he completed 68.2 per cent of his passes for 7,712 yards with 73 TDs, rushing for 407 yards and five more touchdowns.
CFL Canadian QB – CFL Internship Program
#12 QB Arnaud Desjardins: Université Laval: A championship QB from last year’s Vanier Cup squad at Laval, Desjardins led U Sports with 20 passing TDs and in completion percentage (73.0). He had six 300-plus yard passing games last year and his 2,555 passing yardage total was second in the county.
Desjardins was a 2022 U Sports Fist-Team All-Canadian and RSEQ All-Star. He also attended the 2023 CFL Combine as an underclassman.
#56 OL Cole Adamson, University of Manitoba: A fourth-round draft pick a year ago, Adamson has been converted from defensive tackle to the O-line. He’ll at least get a long look in camp there before a decision is made on whether the move would be permanent.
#97 DT Collin Kornelson, University of Manitoba: A fifth-round selection in the CFL Draft this year, the Winnipeg product has eligibility left, but will be battling for a depth D-tackle spot.
#76 WR Michael O’Shea: Not technically a Winnipegger as he was born in Mississauga, but he attended St. Paul’s High School before committing to Guelph and then landing with the Okanagan Sun. A two-time Canadian Junior Football League All Canadian as a returner and receiver.
#78 Joseph Funk-Clements, DB
#77 Brandon Kamenz, DB
#79 Keyshawn Gaskin, DB
#73 Mekhi Tyrell, WR
All rookie camp practices are taking place at IG Field (all times are approximate)
Wednesday, May 10 – 10:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 11 – 10:15 a.m.- 12:15 p.m.
Friday, May 12 – 10:15 a.m.- 12:45 p.m.
Sunday May 14 – 9 a.m.-11:40 a.m.