Linebacking corps bolstered at Sun camp
To Ron Mwamba, it all sounded a little too good to be genuine.
For the last several months, Sun head coach Shane Beatty had been selling the 21-year-old linebacker from Edmonton hard on the many virtues of playing junior football in the Okanagan.
Mwamba, who played the last three seasons at the University of Saskatchewan, had a chance to see for himself at the Sun's spring camp over the weekend in Kelowna.
Seconds after the final whistle, the 5-foot-11, 230-pound Mwamba signed his name on the dotted line.
"Initially, I thought this was all too good to be true…it was my first time in Kelowna," said Mwamba. "But I came here and everything lived up to expectations and more. The football program is great, coach Beatty knows his ins and outs about defense, I learned a lot this weekend. I love it here and I'm excited about coming back for the season."
Mwamba, along with Grande Prairie's Oleks Bobrovskyy, a middle linebacker, were among the key signings for the Sun which should amply solidify the linebacking corps for the 2014 BCFC campaign.
Factor in the return of veterans JT Fernandez, Lucas Machado and Layne Hull, the Sun expect the position to be in very good hands.
On top of it all, former CFL player Mike Botterill has joined the Sun as the club's linebacking coach.
"Mike played seven years in the CFL, so with his experience, he's really going to bring something positive to that linebacking corps and the kids are going to learn from him," said Sun defensive coordinator Nathan Mollard.
"We recruited the position hard because it was a need for us, all through the off-season we knew that, and had kids here from all over the country. With the additions, we've really shored up our linebacking position, but we also have a lot of depth at the position, too."
Bobrovskyy, 18, was at Sun camp last year, but instead opted to stay in his home province to play with the Calgary Colts. This spring, there was no hesitation about signing with the Sun.
"Shane (Beatty) kept in touch with me in the off-season and I heard a lot of exciting things," said the 220-pound Bobrovskyy, was who born in Ukraine. "I came to camp and decided this was the team to go with this year."
And after two days on the field with both returnees and newcomers, Bobrovskyy couldn't contain his excitement over the potential of the Sun defence.
"We're going to have a great, athletic defence this year," he said. "Our linebackers are stacked, our linemen are stacked, and our backfield is awesome. With some great coaching, too, I'm really excited about this defence."
Sun signs 27…
In his second time through the process, sophomore head coach Shane Beatty couldn't have been much happier with the way the Sun's 2014 spring camp concluded.
With 27 new signings to add to 53 returnees, Beatty said the B.C. Football Conference club features depth at virtually every position.
"We have some kids than can really run and really play…we had some youngsters come in show well and some veteran guys who were really impressive," Beatty said. "Guys like (Oleks) Bobrovskyy, (Ron) Mwamba, (safety) Dexter Janke, (receiver) Hunter Verhulst…those are just huge additions for us."
Beatty was encouraged by the performances and additions of several local players, including former Mt. Boucherie quarterback Josiah Joseph and ex-KSS lineman Conner Novak.
On the subject of the quarterbacking position, Beatty said there will be a lot more clarity when the pivots can take considerably more reps at main camp next month.
"(Third-year) Cam Bedore came back and showed a lot of composure, and we feel good about our quarterbacks," said Beatty, "But it was tough at this camp because things are a little sporadic, there were a lot of bodies here (over 100) and the quarterbacks don't get consistent O-lines in front of them. Once we're able to do that at main camp, they'll be throwing the ball well again and we'll get a better idea."
Once again, Beatty points to the defensive backfield—led by all-Canadian Brennan Van Nistelrooy—as the strength of the ball club, an area further bolstered this week by the addition of safeties Dexter Janke and Jean Ventose.
As for Beatty's second go-around with the club, president Paul Carson said the Sun is headed in the right direction.
"It didn't take long for Shane to establish himself here and I think this year is just a continuation of that," Carson said. "It's given him one year to feel a little more comfortable in this league and getting more understanding of what he needs to accomplish. But I think the big difference for him is an additional year of recruiting and that's showing up in the players we've got."
The Sun's main training camp begins the second week of July, with the club's regular season opener set for July 26 in Chilliwack.
Okanagan's home opener is set for Saturday, Aug. 9 against the Vancouver Island Raiders.