Sun loaded in defensive secondary

Newcomer Dexter Janke (left) and returning all-Canadian Brennan Van Nistelrooy will help anchor a deep Okanagan Sun defensive secondary this season. - Warren Henderson/Capital News
Newcomer Dexter Janke (left) and returning all-Canadian Brennan Van Nistelrooy will help anchor a deep Okanagan Sun defensive secondary this season.
— image credit: Warren Henderson/Capital News

If Brennan Van Nistelrooy has his way, opposing teams will find venturing into the Okanagan Sun defensive secondary this season to be a lot like navigating through a minefield.

With experience, speed and size to spare—and a healthy degree of meanness at their disposal—the 20-year-old defensive back expects the Sun secondary to be second to none this summer in the B.C. Football Conference.

"We're going to play with speed and aggressiveness, and try make the secondary a tough  place for other teams to be," said Van Nistelrooy, 20. "We want other teams to respect us and think twice about coming back there.

"I expect us to be the top secondary, not only in the conference, but in the country," he added. "I know everybody here believes it. Hopefully we can live up to those expectations."

An all-Canadian last season, Van Nistelrooy will be joined by a host of returning veterans in the secondary, including Matt McConnell, Robbie Yochim and Wes Geisler.

Four-year CIS veteran Dexter Janke, from the University of Saskatchewan, will move into the safety spot vacated by the graduated Jack Rush, while rookie Beck Fullerton, from Winnipeg, is also expected to make an impact in the secondary.

Janke, who scored four touchdowns as running back in Canada West last season, hasn't played in the defensive backfield since high school. Still, the Sun believes the Edmonton native has all the tools to be a top-end safety in the BCFC.

"We like his intensity, physicality and his extreme athleticism," Sun coach Shane Beatty said Sunday. "We think he's a good fit for that spot."

Janke took his first reps at safety over the weekend, as the Sun kicked off its 2014 training camp at the Parkinson fields.

"Growing up, coaches always told me that was the position for me," said the 5-foot-10, 204-pound Janke. "I find the transition (to safety) has been going OK, the coaches and other guys here have been really helpful, so I'm excited about it."

Between returning players and newcomers, the Sun are no fewer than 10 players deep in the defensive secondary, all of whom can be relied upon by Beatty and his coaching staff.

"We're got so much depth back there, we're long, we're fast and athletic…we have guys all over the place who have either played in the CIS or could play there," said Beatty. "A lot of these guys are 6-foot-1 plus, a bunch are over 200 pounds. It's going to allow us to be flexible back there in the secondary and run a lot of different coverages. We're really excited about this group."

In addition to the secondary, Beatty said two other areas of considerable depth on the ball club are at receiver and in the linebacking corps. As far as positions which need to be shored up, Beatty said the Sun "still has some work to do" along the offensive and defensive lines.

All in all, the second-year coach is pleased with cross-section of talent among the 81 players who showed for the beginning of the club's 2014 training camp.

"We're very athletic," he said. "Overall, we've got a lot more depth than last year."

The Sun open the 2014 BCFC regular season July 26 in Chilliwack against the Huskers.


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