Shane Beatty doesn’t plan on waiting for main training camp or the regular season to instill a competitive, hard-nosed mentality on the 2014 edition of the Okanagan Sun.
With the club’s annual spring camp set for this weekend, the second-year head coach is calling for his players to play hard and set the bar high—right from the opening whistle.
“Our biggest theme once again is going to be ‘compete’,” said Beatty. “Compete right from the start, come in and fight for a spot on this team because we’re going to play fast and we’re going to be very aggressive.
“I want the kids to come in here with the mindset that we’re going after a 2014 championship.”
About 110 players, including 52 returnees, will be on hand this weekend for the 2014 edition of spring camp at the Apple Bowl/Parkinson practise fields.
In the months leading up to spring camp, Beatty and his assistants embarked an exhaustive search to land the best talent available from across the country.
Multiple stops in Saskatoon and Vancouver, along with trips to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Kamloops spawned a number of key signings.
And while not every solid prospect has been sealed and delivered, the head coach is optimistic about the club’s overall talent pool in 2014.
“We’ve worked really hard (recruiting), we as a staff and as an organization have been doing everything we can to get better,” said Beatty, whose club went 8-2 last season before losing in the conference semifinal. “Right now, we won’t know until we see the whites of their eyeballs, but we could be awfully good. We’re very excited.”
Among the newcomers Beatty has high hopes for include linebackers Oleks Bobrovsky (Grande Prairie), Mike Desjarlais (Regina) and Ron Mwamba (Edmonton), receiver Hunter Verhulst (Calgary) and KSS defensive lineman Connor Novak, who was named defensive MVP at the B.C. Senior Bowl.
As for the strengths of this year’s ball club, according to Beatty, the defensive secondary will feature loads of depth, led by the likes of Brennan Van Nistelrooy, Robbie Yochim, Landon King, Wes Geisler and Matt McConnell.
Plenty is also expected from the receiving corps which will feature Zach Regert, Thomas Huber, Lerone Robinson, Kyle Patchell and Jesse Kendall, among others.
As for the quarterbacking position, last year’s starter, Theo Deezar, is headed for the University of Manitoba and won’t be returning. Still, with returning veteran Cam Bedore in the mix, Beatty said the pivot spot should be in good hands.
“Cam Bedore has been doing a heck of a job, he’s put on about 15 pounds of muscle…Matt Calderwood is back, and Josiah Joseph (Mt. Boucherie) is committed, so there’s three good talents. Now we’ve got four more coming into camp and we’re going to open the door to them to compete for a job.”
In all, Beatty said about 20 new jobs on the Sun roster will be up for grabs.
The Sun’s spring camp begins with registration Thursday and Friday evenings.
Practise sessions are set for 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. on Sunday.
The final scrimmage will go from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Main training camp will get under way in the second week of July.