Notes and quotes from Day 7 of Blue Bombers training camp…
SWEAT EQUITY PAYING OFF: Blue Bombers receiver Brendan O’Leary-Orange popped off the page a couple of times during camp on Saturday, using his speed and length to latch onto passes that would have gone over, or through, many others.
Now heading into his third year with the club, but still with just 15 games under his belt, the former fourth-round selection in the 2020 CFL Draft seems poised to take that proverbial next step in his career.
“I put a lot of work in during the offseason and I’m really excited to display it now,” O’Leary-Orange told bluebombers.com after a windy morning session at WSF South. “At the same time, I’m trying to play smart and put the team first and my body first and take care of myself to get ready for the season.”
O’Leary-Orange is an enticing target for quarterbacks, standing 6-4 and weighing 207, and sporting the speed to get open outside and to make the tough grab over the middle. He dressed for 12 games last year, seven of them starts and finished with 19 receptions for 233 yards and one touchdown, that score coming against Saskatchewan in the Banjo Bowl.
Over the winter he continued to work at his craft and while he missed the first couple of days of camp to make sure he could hit the ground running, his last few sessions have been solid. Here’s Blue Bomber head coach Mike O’Shea on what he has seen in O’Leary-Orange since his arrival in 2021:
“Constant growth. And I think that’s really important for Brendan. Physically, he’s an imposing human being as a receiver — tall, thick, carries a lot of weight, but with a lot of speed. It’s just a matter of time before he felt really comfortable with the playbook and everything they were going to ask him to do. That time was filled with hard work. He spent a lot of time with Kevin Bourgoin, the receivers coach, a lot of time on his own watching film and studying to make sure that he knew what he was supposed to do last year and it was good to see.
“He didn’t come in expecting it to be handed to him. There’s always that initial shock that you’re not the best any more. After that initial shock it went to work and realized there was a good amount of work to be done, as there is with a lot of guys.”
The seven starts last year and increased work load only fuelled O’Leary-Orange further. He wants more and knows to get that he has to earn it. That made this past offseason critical.
“I wanted to master the playbook a little bit more and lock into that,” he said. “I wanted to become a better route runner and continue to develop my game in every aspect. I don’t think you can ever not stop getting better and if you change that mentality you won’t. I tried to take that approach with things and it definitely helped.
“Confidence-wise, (last year) was my first time playing in a couple of years. It just lets you know you that you can still do it and perform at the highest level. It also gave me confidence in that there was still so much room to grow. I had a limited role where I got a taste of it and it left me wanting more. It made me want to work even more and buy into the process. I’m excited to be here with such a good group of guys. I’m lucky, man.”
A humble and soft-spoken man, O’Leary-Orange chuckled when asked to describe life in the Blue Bombers receivers room.
“There’s a lot of big personalities in there, but I love it,” he said with a smile. “I love coming to work every day with guys like Kenny (Lawler), Woli (Drew Wolitarsky), Sheed (Rasheed Bailey), (Nic) Demski, Carlton (Agudosi), Dalton (Schoen)… it’s such a mixed blend of guys and such good people. There’a s lot of alpha males, but no one is selfish and for a young guy like me it reminds me that this is the path I need to walk.
“If you want to be successful in this league you have to be humble, have a great attitude and just continue to try and get better every day. Working around a group like that makes it easier.”
COMINGS/GOINGS: The Blue Bombers added two players Saturday in WR Brendan Beaulieu (6-2, 215, Bemidji State) and RB Kevon Latulas (Missouri State) while releasing two receivers in Dominick Fiscelli and Michael Young Jr.
Beaulieu started 13 games last year for Bemidji State, leading the conference and finishing second in Division II with 82 receptions for 1,504 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns — all three school records. He also posted nine 100-yard receiving games and left the school as the program’s career record holder in receiving yardage (3,725), receptions (215), touchdown receptions (38), 100-yard receiving games (17) and third in career touchdowns scored (39).
Latulas started five games last year at Missouri State and averaged 7.3-yards per carry and earned a spot on the MVFC Honor Roll.
FYI: QB Zach Collaros was not in attendance as he continues to deal with a personal matter… O’Shea on Demerio Houston, who is working at one corner spot opposite Desmond Lawrence with Winston Rose having missed the last couple of days of practice: “Smooth athlete, can cover, doesn’t panic.You get put out on an island if you lose a step some guys, their mind starts to race and you lose what they’ve got with their natural ability. He’s very confident, very calm out there… great demeanour for a spot that if you make a mistake it can cost points.”… RB Johnny Augustine returned to work on Saturday. Jordan Salima of Truman State has been getting a lot of work with the 1s with Brady Oliviera still on the mend, along with RB/SB Greg McCrae… WR Drew Wolitarsky was back at his post on Saturday… LB Adam Bighill has not practised yet, with Shayne Gauthier in the middle with the defensive starters.
NEXT: Sunday’s practice session runs from 8:30-11:30 a.m. at IG Field.