Sun camp bolstered by strong recruiting class

45 veterans and 31 newcomers will be at the B.C. Football Conference club’s training camp

With the departures of stalwart veterans Jonas Gering and Lucas Machado, there was concern the defensive line would be among the Okanagan Sun’s biggest deficiencies this season.

But thanks to an aggressive and prosperous offseason of recruiting, the D-line may in fact turn out to be one of the B.C. Football Conference team’s strengths in 2017.

With a talented collection of newcomers set to join key returnees Connor Novak, Elias Rodriguez and Kent Lawrence, head coach Ben Macauley expects the Sun front four to cause plenty of misery for opposing offenses this season.

“After last season, with just four returning players, we really thought our defensive line would be one of our weaknesses this season,” said Macauley, now in his second season at the Sun’s head coach. “But we had good success in our recruiting and we’re up to 13 bodies now, so we’ve got some depth and numbers, and some really good talent there. I think it could be one of the strongest areas of our team. ”

The Sun staff will get a thorough first look at its latest recruiting class this weekend as the club’s main training camp kicks off Friday night at the Parkinson/Apple Bowl practise fields.

Joining the defensive line from the University of Saskatchewan are Cole Klughart and Mitch Lyons, both of whom Macauley expects to step into starting roles for the Sun. Gabriel St-Germain, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound recent cut of the CFL’s Ottawa RedBlacks, and Hayward Beasley, formerly of the Edmonton Huskies, will also bolster the position.

With the graduation of all-Canadian Layne Hull, one of the most anticipated additions is linebacker Shaun Robinson, a 6-foot-1, 245-pound native of Halifax. According to Macauley, Robinson who played part of last season with the Westshore Rebels, has all-Canadian potential.

“I think Shaun is a preseason favourite for defensive player of the year,” said Macauley. “He’ll take away some of the sting of losing Layne. He’ll step right in and be a force for us.”

Returnee Eli Haynes will bring leadership and stability to the Sun linebacking corps, while returning all-Canadian Beck Fullerton will anchor the club’s defensive backfield.

On offense, Keith Zyla is back to assume the starting role at quarterback, while Brendan Hansen, Kelton Kouri, Robbie Rodrigues return at running back.

The backfield will be bolstered by the additions of newcomers Tanner Sudo, a former national judo champion from Lethbridge, and Aiden Hennesey, a 250-pound fullback from Calgary.

Kyler Mosley, Shamar Donelson and Nate Anderson will bring veteran experience to the receiving corps, while Jeremy Williams, Matthew Robinson, Liam Hamlyn and James Harney return along the offensive line. Veteran experience on the O-line will also come from newcomers Marshall Klein from the University of Alberta, and Kyle Zale, a former national wrestling champ who played for the Canadian Bowl champ Saskatoon Hilltops in 2015.

With 76 players on the roster—45 returnees and 31 first-timers—the Sun opens camp on Friday night. The club will hold two training sessions each on Saturday and Sunday.

The Sun will kick off the BCFC regular season Saturday, July 27 at home to the Westshore Rebels.