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Grudge match in the making

Eskimos lineup sprinkled with former Bombers

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EDMONTON -- From his stall in the vast oval that is the Edmonton Eskimos locker-room, former Blue Bombers linebacker Clint Kent can pick out a number of old friends.

Across the floor to his left is where the defensive line hangs out, which is where you'll find Don Oramasionwu. The two were a part of the Bombers defence in 2010 and 2011, so they share more than just a locker-room sightline. To Kent's right, a little farther away, is Greg Carr, the former Bombers wide receiver who spent the better part of those two seasons with Kent and Donny O, while straight ahead sits Steven Jyles, the Eskimos quarterback, yet another former Bomber playing in the Alberta capital.

Does anyone else find this a little odd?

"Familiar faces in different colours," Kent said after the Eskimos went through their final practice before facing the Bombers at Commonwealth Stadium Friday night (8 p.m., TSN, CJOB). The 28-year-old, cut by the Bombers out of training camp, landed in Edmonton and is already drawing praise from new teammates for his nose for the ball and on-field leadership.

Kent's eyes lit up when asked if he was looking forward to playing his old teammates.

"Of course I am... of course. I'm very excited to be playing against those guys," he said, diplomatically referencing the matchup against the players on the field, not the unspoken grudge he may or may not have towards the coaching staff or organization.

"I'd be lying if I said it was just going to be another game," said Oramasionwu, a Winnipeg native who the Bombers just let go in free agency. "I'm looking forward to it. There are a lot of guys that I know on that team and it's been a day that's been (marked) on my calendar.

"You're playing a team you used to play for -- if you can't get up for that you can't get up for anything."

Carr, who also left Winnipeg via free agency last off-season, tried to keep the contest in perspective. He bolted from the Bombers not because the team didn't want him (the Eskimos simply offered more money), so there is no animosity on his end towards his old team.

That doesn't mean he doesn't want to have a great game Friday night.

"I didn't have this game circled, but I knew it was coming," Carr said. "Some of us here know those guys pretty well, and they know us, so it will be interesting."

The man responsible for this latest wave of Blue and Gold migration out west isEskimos head coach Kavis Reed, who served as the defensive co-ordinator under Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice in 2010. His fingerprints are all over this Eskimos roster, as he helped GM Eric Tillman pitch Edmonton to guys like Kent, Carr and Oramasionwu.

Reed downplayed the connection to Winnipeg on Wednesday, choosing to focus on the game in basic terms: This is Edmonton against Winnipeg, he said, not former Bombers out to prove Winnipeg management wrong.

"This league is small. There are only eight teams," Reed added. "A lot of us have been on a lot of the teams, and if that's the case then every week is going to be a rivalry week for most teams.

"Those guys, obviously the personal pride they have not being back (with the Bombers) may motivate them -- whatever motivates them, that's fine with me, but I don't take that approach. I hope they just focus on playing the football team that's in front of them."

And not the one behind them, right?

All told, there are 10 former Bombers on the 2012 edition of the Eskimos: Kent, Carr, Oramasionwu, Jyles, receivers Adarius Bowman (on the nine-game injured list) and Aaron Hargreaves, offensive lineman Kyle Koch; plus Reed, running backs coach Jamie Barresi and defensive co-ordinator Mark Nelson.

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @wazoowazny


WINNIPEG WEST

Edmonton has seven players and three coaches who have Bombers ties, with most of those connections only going back a year or two. An 11th member of the Eskimos -- defensive back Donovan Alexander -- has local links of a different nature: Alexander is a Winnipeg native.

PLAYERS

Clint Kent, linebacker: Came to the Bombers in 2010 and immediately assumed a starting role in the defence; released by Winnipeg out of training camp last month.

Greg Carr, wide receiver: Played 18 games in Blue and Gold, catching 77 passes for 1,216 yards and eight TDs over two seasons; left for Edmonton as a free agent in the off-season.

Don Oramasionwu, defensive tackle: A Winnipegger, Donny O was supposed to be the heir apparent to Doug Brown; after three years with the Bombers, the club took a pass on him in free agency.

Aaron Hargreaves, receiver: After four seasons in Manitoba, the Bombers let him walk this winter; signed with Edmonton before camp; started the year on the injured list.

Steven Jyles, quarterback: Saw just one season in Winnipeg (2010), starting 11 games thanks to Buck Pierce's numerous injuries; dealt to Toronto before the 2011 season.

Adarius Bowman, wide receiver: The Bombers cut him in 2010 after tiring of his inconsistent play; had a nice 2011 (62 catches for 1,153 yards); tore up his knee last week.

Kyle Koch, offensive line: Joined the Bombers in 2007; played 14 games over two seasons before leaving Winnipeg as a free agent in 2009.

 

COACHES

Kavis Reed, head coach: Served as the Bombers defensive co-ordinator in 2010; left to become the Eskimos head coach after one season in Winnipeg.

Jamie Barresi, running backs coach: After two seasons (2010-11) as the Bombers offensive co-ordinator, he was dumped by the club following the Grey Cup.

Mark Nelson, defensive co-ordinator: His time in Winnipeg was spent as the defensive co-ordinator during the Mike Kelly era in 2009.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 12, 2012 D1

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