Getting an accurate read on a team’s character and talent level two months before the start of the football season isn’t an exact science.
Still, new head coach Ben Macauley liked a lot of what he saw over the weekend from the 85 players who attended the 2016 edition of the Okanagan Sun’s spring camp.
“The numbers maybe weren’t as high as some past years, but I’d say I’m pretty satisfied with the overall talent level,” said Macauley, who was hired as the club’s 16th head coach in February. “You see and recognize the guys right away who can make plays, the guys who are at the top level.
“The challenge for us now is filling out the depth, figuring out who’s next in line, making those decisions, and maybe do a little more recruiting if we need to. But all in all, I’m pretty happy with the guys we have here.”
The defending BCFC champs will be looking to compensate for the losses of a number of key players from last season, including the likes of all-Canadians Brennan Van Nistelrooy, Kyle Kawamoto, Cliff Crews and Cord Delinte, as well as quarterbacks Cam Bedore and Josiah Joseph.
But thanks to depth and the Sun’s longstanding record of success, general manager Jay Christensen is confident Macauley and his coaching staff will be able to put another solid product on the field.
“There will certainly be a different feel this season,” Christensen said. “As a new coach you don’t like losing quality players but the benefit is that the program has always been strong. There aren’t a lot of big holes to fill, so you look for that next generation of players to step up and lead the program. Some guys have been waiting to step into bigger roles, so now’s the time.”
The club’s returning veterans will see a marked difference in coaching philosophies this season, as the Sun transitions from three years with the uber intense Shane Beatty to the more calming and structured style of Ben Macauley.
“His strengths are that he’s very organized, this camp came off without a hitch, and that makes us a lot more productive,” Christensen said of Macauley, who was an assistant for two seasons with the Sun, and head coach of the KSS Owls last season.
“He’s very level-headed, he has a really good handle on how to deal with players, just a real calming influence.
“I’m a fan of Ben and his approach,” he added. “You try and promote your players to be leaders, to be the voices of your team.”
The Sun will kick off main training camp in early July. The BCFC regular season begins on Saturday, July 23 in Chilliwack.
Hansen joins ground game
Among the highly-touted new additions to the Sun this season will be 19-year-old running back Brenden Hansen.
The 5-foot-10, 193-pound native of Okotoks, Alta., spent last season with the University of Calgary Dinos, watching and learning from CFL second-round draft pick Mercer Timmis.
After choosing not to return for his second year of university, Hansen decided the junior route was his next best path to success.
“Looking across the country, the Sun and (Saskatoon) Hilltops stood out above the rest,” said Hansen, who played high school football at Henry Wisewood in Calgary. “I called coach Macauley, had a meeting and was sold right away. Coach Macauley brings a lot of great things with him to the team, I’m sold on the program, and the city is amazing.
“I want to bring something to the table for the Sun, and come out here and win a national championship.”
With the losses of Kory Ngata and Dillon Fortune from the offensive backfield, Macauley expects Hansen to be a valuable addition to the Sun.
“You can tell he’s had some really good coaching in the past, he comes in here quite polished,” Macauley said of Hansen’s attributes. “He’s got some breakaway speed and he really sees the field well. He’s going to do very well for us and we’re happy to have him.”