With a new head coach at the controls, and half of the club’s 72-man roster pulling on orange and brown for the first time, expect the Okanagan Sun to be a markedly different club in 2013.
If all goes as planned, Shane Beatty and his staff will field a tougher, edgier and more athletic squad than the one that posted a dismal 3-7 record during the 2012 B.C. Football Conference season.
“We were soft on offense, soft on defense and soft on special teams last year, and that has to change,” said Beatty, a former Sun player who is in his rookie season as the club’s head coach. “As coaches, it’s going to be our job to get the kids mentally and physically prepared to play hard and play physical on every down. We want to be the kind of team that flies around, makes plays, and makes life really tough on our opponents.”
Now a week into training camp, Beatty and his staff are starting to get a clearer picture of what the Sun will look like when it takes to the Apple Bowl turf July 27 for the club’s season opener against the Chilliwack Huskers.
At quarterback, incumbent Cam Bedore is being pushed for the starting role by Theo Deezar, a 6-foot-5 Winnipeg native who spent last season with the Manitoba Bisons.
“Both kids compete hard, both have strong arms, so we’re happy with the way that position is shaping up,” said Beatty. “Both are smart players, so I think this one will go down to the wire. It’ll be fun to watch.”
At running back, Beatty said a three-horse race is taking shape between returnees Alex Bradley and Dillon Fortune, along with newcomer Marcus Cooper.
On the offensive line, where bodies are always at a premium, the coaching staff has 11 players to work with, led by veteran returnees Devon Kozar and Will Halibiski.
One of the deepest areas of the ball club is at the receiver positions where 16 players will compete for playing time. Veterans Tommy Howes, Kyle Patchell, Jesse Kendall and Thomas Huber, among others, will be joined by a stable of newcomers including Zach Regert, Deion Bain and Lerone Robinson.
On defense, the D-line will feature returnees Zach Ironstand and Jonas Gering on the ends, along with Terrence Mendes in the middle.
The linebacking corps will be anchored by veteran returnee Brandon Donkers, while newcomers JT Fernandez and Lucas Machado will also be excepted to make an impact.
The Sun won’t be lacking for bodies in the defensive secondary where 19 players are expected suit up for the start of the season. Veterans Robbie Yochim, Jack Rush, Jamie Turek, Brennan Van Nistelrooy, Steven Ruddy and Landon King will help provide depth and stability at all positions in the defensive backfield.
“It’s a very fast, physical and athletic group,” Beatty added. “We’re very deep back there and really pleased with the group we have.”
As for the kicking game, Beatty said the place kicking and punting duties remain up in the air, but some decisions could be made by this weekend.
The Sun will hold a scrimmage this Saturday at the Parkinson/Apple Bowl practise field from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.