With close to 100 bodies flying around in every conceivable direction over 2 1/2 days, it would be understandable if Gavin Lake was somewhat overwhelmed by his first spring camp in Kelowna.
Quite the contrary for the new Okanagan Sun field boss, who was both intrigued and excited to get a firsthand look at what the B.C. Football Conference club has to offer for the 2012 season.
“I liked a lot of what I saw here over the weekend,” said Lake, who has CIS, CFL and BCFC coaching experience. “From an organizational end of things, I was very pleased with the way it came off.
“I think player-wise, we’re in a strong position here,” Lake added. “We have strong group of returning talent, and if we can recruit the right guys and coach them up, I think we have a pretty strong foundation to build with.”
Like virtually every other football team on the planet, Lake said one of the Sun’s most pressing needs is along the offensive line. With the loss of two-time all-star Drew Digout (University of Saskatchewan), in particular, the club will spend the next couple of months before main camp looking for a couple more “big men” to work in the trenches.
“That’s how it is at every level—getting the big, motivated guys who can play seems to be the challenge,” Lake said. “But, you know what, we had a decent number of guys here, we definitely want to bring more in to main camp. In terms of big bodies we have the right guys, we just want to fill one or two more spots.”
With returnees Steve Doege and Sam Looysen as the anchors, and a number of promising newcomers, the Sun’s defensive line likely won’t need as much tweaking as the O-line this season.
Among first-timers who impressed the coaching staff were Zak Ironstand (Saskatoon Hilltops), John Tewelde (St. Vital, Man.) and Dan Broberg (U of Alberta).
Ironstand, a defensive end, helped the Hilltops win the Canadian junior championship in 2010.
“I heard a lot of good things about the Sun and Kelowna, I always wanted to play in the B.C. league so I really wanted to give this a try,” said Ironstand, who hails from North Battleford, Sask. “What I saw this weekend, it will definitely bring me back for main camp. I like the scenery, too.”
As for other newcomers, Lake said W.J. Mouat’s Cam Bedore and former SFU pivot Greg Bowcott both showed well at quarterback behind incumbent Jeremy Joseph-Mraovic.
On the subject of the club’s returnees, the new coach was impressed by—among many others—Mikhail Maloff and Daniel Xavier at running back, slotback Bobby Davis (coverted from QB and safety), linebacker Brandon Donkers, and defensive backs Brennan Van Nistelrooy, Matt Walker and Robbie Yochim.
Sun player personnel director Howie Zaron will sit down with Lake and the coaching staff to draft up a main training camp roster of between 75 and 85 players over the the next several weeks.
The club’s main camp begins in mid-July.
Doege to Lions’ rookie camp
Steven Doege has no objection to making weekly trips to Vancouver this summer.
It’s a scenario that could unfold for the Okanagan Sun veteran if the B.C. Lions decide to invest some of their future in the 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive lineman.
Thanks to a strong showing at Lions’ free agent camp at the end of April, Doege earned an invite to the CFL club’s rookie camp at the end of this month in Kamloops.
If the Lions like enough of what they see from the Rutland grad, B.C. could follow a similar plan used two years ago for Vancouver Island running back Andrew Harris.
Harris played for the Raiders on weekends and practiced during the week with the Lions. Two seasons later, he was a starter in the CFL.
Sun GM Jay Christensen said the time is right for the Canadian Junior Football League’s defensive player of the year to take the next step forward in a promising career.
“The ball’s in the Lions’ court right now, it’s their decision on what they have planned for him,” said Christensen. “For Steven, it gives him an opportunity to experience that higher level and to continue to develop as a player.
“He’s at that point in junior football where he’s that much better than most of the other players on the field,” added Christensen, “so he’s going to learn that much more at the higher level. This could be a great opportunity for him.”
From Doege’s perspective, getting as far as Lions rookie camp is an important next step in realizing his dream.
“I’m thrilled to be invited,” said Doege, 21, entering his fourth season with the Sun. “I was working towards this all off-season, so it’s great to see it pay off. I feel like I want this had enough, now I have to show them what I can do.”
Doege, the BCFC’s career sacks leader, will be among about 40 prospects at Lions’ rookie camp in Kamloops in early June.
The Sun MVP will try to earn an invite to main camp beginning June 5.