BRADENTON, FLA. -- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers wrapped up their first ever spring mini-camp in Florida here Tuesday morning and immediately proclaimed the three-day event a success.
"Exceeded the expectations," Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea told reporters as the Bombers wrapped up their fifth and final practice session Tuesday morning at IMG Academy. "The talent level that was brought here by (GM) Kyle (Walters) and his staff -- I think it really blew the coaches away...
"Right now, what we just did, was vital for this organization and I think we will reap the rewards for it."
One of the key personnel questions heading into the 2014 season for the Bombers is at quarterback and O’Shea said he was impressed with the performance of all four of his quarterbacks down here -- Drew Willy, Max Hall, Brian Brohm and Robert Marve.
The general concensus among casual observers was that Marve -- a former Florida high school star who the Bombers picked up over the winter -- had the strongest camp of the four QBs, firing bullets all three days and showing an impressive talent for throwing deep to a small target.
O’Shea agreed that Marve had a good camp, but also immediately laid to rest any potential quarterback controversy, repeating his previous pronouncements about who will start for the Bombers in 2014.. "Obviously we have to watch all the film again, but Drew Willy is our starter," O’Shea said.
Willy said he was pleased with his performance at camp. "I thought it went pretty well the last three days -- a lot of throws that we got up. I haven’t thrown that much in a mini-camp ever."
Willy was asked how his arm held up. "It’s pretty tired. I’m not going to lie. But I felt good."
Bombers GM Kyle Walters said he went a long way this week to filling up the remaining invitations to his club’s main training camp in Winnipeg in June, estimating 20-25 of the 55 or so players who auditioned here this week will return for main camp.
"The mission statement coming down here is we want to make sure we get the best 75 guys coming to training camp," said Walters. "And I’m confident that the objective of we want to bring better American talent to training camp, we’ve accomplished that."
The Bombers also auditioned three kickers on Tuesday, putting them through punting, place-kicking and kickoff drills. The club was particularly keen this week to see Brett Maher, who performed all three tasks in a standout career at the University of Nebraska and will almost certainly be invited to the Bombers main training camp in June if he doesn’t get an NFL offer in the meantime.
Maher said he is still entertaining NFL interest from the Kansas City Chiefs, but is also keenly interested in the Bombers after getting a glimpse of the organization. "I’ve definitely been very pleased with this organization and with the coaches and scouts and stuff that I’ve been in contact with. That’s something that you can’t substitute in any business is working with good people.
"And that’s been very reassuring and very comfortable for me..."
The Bombers staff and players will pack up today and begin heading home later this afternoon.