Are you ready for the most wonderful time of the year?? No, not Christmas but rather the start of CFL training camp. This coming Sunday, all 8 teams will officially open camp for the 2012 CFL season. And once again, the quaint college town of Sherbrooke, QC will be invaded by a flock of Dirty Birds.
The Alouettes will open their 3rd straight training camp in Sherbooke at Bishop’s University. I’ve long said that if you’re looking to meet as many of the players as possible in one shot, training camp is the way to go.
As usual, camp is open to the public starting this Sunday and goes for the next 2 weeks. To get a feel of what to expect, check out my article from last year detailing the goings-on of camp. There’s a ton of activities for every age group and if attending this doesn’t get you excited for the upcoming season, I doubt anything will.
It’s been a busy off-season to be sure, with last year ending much sooner than it should have. The dreams of a 3rd straight Grey Cup for the Als died on the artificial turf of Olympic Stadium at the hands of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. No question that the numerous injuries which depleted the defense weighed heavily on general manager Jim Popp’s mind and led to his decision to completely revamp the defensive core.
Signing defensive stalwarts like Aaron Hunt & Rod Davis while cutting loose older players like Anwar Stewart has put the rest of the league on notice that this will not be the weakened defense that other teams were able to capitalize late last year. Returning from injuries will be superstars Etienne Boulay & Shea Emry, both beset by concussions last season. And the team is high on Daunte’ Akra stepping up from the practice roster to replace Stewart.
All these factors combined with the hiring of Jeff Reinebold as the new defensive coordinator has given the Alouettes’ D a fresh new look and will surely keep opponents second-guessing their abilities to score on this Montreal team.
On offense, not much needed to be tweaked. Aside from the retirement of Kerry Watkins & the release of Kerry Carter, this part of the football field remains pretty much the same. Anthony Calvillo will be back, despite his 40th birthday mere months away. Brandon Whitaker went from backup to league rushing leader in one short season and will be eager to prove it was no fluke. And AC will still have his go-to weapons heading downfield in Jamel Richardson, S.J. Green & Brian Bratton.
Based on his strong first year playing full-time in the Alouettes system, one would say Brandon London has pretty much filled the void left by Watkins’ retirement. But the team will also want to get Bo Bowling some more reps in that 4th wide receiver spot as well. Eric Deslauriers re-signed with the team & his size and speed cannot be overlooked either. As usual, there’s no shortage of capable hands for AC to put the ball into.
With their first pick in this year’s CFL draft, the Alouettes went local with fullback Patrick Lavoie from Laval University. The team feels very strong about his ability as they not only released veteran FB Kerry Carter to make room for Lavoie, but his #81 jersey (his number in university made available with the retirement of Watkins) is now available for sale at the Alouettes’ online store.
Seems like a lot of pressure to put on a young player who has yet to play a down in the CFL but if he can handle it and blossom, Lavoie can become the latest in Quebec-born football players that star for the Alouettes like Boulay, Deslauriers, Luc Brodeur-Jourdain & Marc-Olivier Brouillette.
Other young stars that have everyone excited include the likes of Bo Adebayo, Noel Devine and Kyle Quinlan, whose QB heroics helped McMaster best heavily-favoured Laval in last year’s Vanier Cup. A lot of people are hopeful that Quinlan will somehow crack the Alouettes roster as a quarterback and eventually be the Canadian-born starting QB that the league’s fans desperately crave.
Whether he does or not will depend heavily on how well the other QBs perform at camp. Calvillo and Adrian McPherson are safe while Ricky Santos & Josh Neiswander have been biding their time, waiting for the opportunity to come along. Other Canadian quarterbacks have tried to crack the roster of other CFL teams and met with varying results.
With the signing of Quinlan & Graves, it’s clear the Alouettes are giving serious consideration for the day that Anthony Calvillo retires. Sooner or later, someone else will have to step in and lead this team when #13 has had his fill. For me, it has to be the best possible players vying for the quarterback spots on the Alouettes, regardless of what country they were born in.
This will be an interesting year for the Alouettes and the CFL as a whole. The league is going all-in with the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto and it’s success has become the focal point of the 2012 campaign. There will be a ton of media coverage as the season progresses and every effort will be made to ensure that it will be the major party/festival of the football year.
For the Alouettes, this will be a year of redemption. They will want to prove to everyone that last year’s woes were a mere hiccup in their quest for league-wide domination. Changes have been made, new tools have been brought in and the focus on winning at a higher level will return stronger than ever.
The hunted are now hunters again. As an Als fan, you have to be excited at what’s coming up. And when the 100th Grey Cup kicks off in late November, don’t be surprised if the 2 teams playing are the same teams that played in the 97th & 98th Grey Cup. Just my thoughts.
See you all in Sherbrooke this coming Sunday!
GO ALS GO!!!
About the Author
Written by Clifford Pine
Montreal born & bred, lover of sports. Passionate about the Montreal Alouettes. Also a great cook & not too bad a dancer.