If there are a ton of shoo-ins for starting positions on the 2011 edition of the Okanagan Sun, Howie Zaron isn’t tipping his hand about very many of them.
With 38 newcomers on the BCFC club’s 77-man training camp roster, the Sun’s general manager expects plenty of battles for No. 1 jobs right across the board.
“I think you’re going to see some real tough competition everywhere, with all the talent we have,” said Zaron. “Whether it’s returning veterans trying to nail down spots, or young guys coming in to push them.
“I think maybe the past couple of years, there’s been a sense of entitlement around the team about who’s going to start,” added Zaron, “but coach (Jason) Casey has nipped that one in the bud. He’s let everybody know this is an open competition.”
With all-star calibre players like defensive lineman Steven Doege, and offensive linemen Drew Digout and Charles Wilson returning, Zaron admits there are several positions—barring any major surprises—which are pretty much etched in stone. Defensive backs Wyatt Smith and Robbie Yochim, and receiver Dan Turek are among other veterans Zaron expects to occupy starting roles.
Still, healthy competition is encouraged at every spot, including at quarterback where incumbent Bobby Davis could be pressed for playing time by newcomer Jeremy Joseph, a former Surrey Ram and ex-member of the St. Francis Xavier program.
“I expect there to be great competition there,” he said. “Jeremy Joseph is a very skilled quarterback, but Bobby’s got experience and he’s a heck of a quarterback, too. I’m excited to see how it turns out.”
Zaron is also looking for an interesting battle at tailback where four-year veteran Daniel Xavier and sophomore Armand Bokitch are in the running for No. 1.
The toughest area of a football club to stock is traditionally along the offensive line, but with 15 players on the roster ready to compete for positions, Zaron said it could potentially be an area of strength for the Sun in 2011.
The defensive live will be bolstered this week by the addition of Sam Looysen from Saskatoon, a 280-pound tackle who reportedly can bench press 30 reps of 225 pounds.
Among newcomers out of high school Zaron expects to make an impact are lineman Evan McCann from Calgary, Lethbridge defensive back Brennan Van Nistelrooy, and Mt. Boucherie running back Mikael Maloff.
Sun training camp will run for the next three weeks with evening sessions at the Apple Bowl practise field as the club prepares for its season opener July 31 against the Kamloops Cowboys.
While the 2011 camp is close to a week longer than Sun camps of the past, coach Jason Casey isn’t at all concerned about the potential of burnout or complacency from his players.
“Absolutely not, it’s three weeks,” said Casey. “If three weeks of mostly single days burns a guy out then out its time for him to hang up the shoulder pads. This is what camp’s about, we want to see who wants to play on this team. We have some positions that are really there for the taking so I expect nothing but intensity the whole time we are here.”
Camp officially began Sunday night with fitness testing.
Among the leaders in testing results were offensive lineman Charles Wilson who was tops in bench press, while receiver David Risko was the fastest player in the 40-yard dash.