Scouts earn their keep
BRADENTON, FLA. -- Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Kyle Walters breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday as his club's first-ever mini-training camp in Florida wrapped up after three days.
Walters dramatically upgraded the scouting department this winter and this week's mini-camp was all about giving the Bombers coaches their first look in person at the fruits of all that scouting in the form of about 50 or so rookie prospects who attended.
"When you come down here, it was kind of an interesting and anxious time," Walters told reporters Tuesday after his club went through one final practice session Tuesday morning at IMG Academy.
"You come down here as a scouting department and you sure as hell didn't want after one day for the coaches to go, 'Really? This is what we got?' And that wasn't the case. The coaches are excited..."
Indeed, head coach Mike O'Shea was gushing about the talent he saw.
"The talent level that was brought here by Kyle 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."
Walters said there are a couple of positions where the Bombers might still be a bit thin (he suggested receiver might be one) and scouts will have to get busy finding some more talent before main camp opens in Winnipeg in June. But overall Walters said the Bombers braintrust was thrilled with what they saw down here and 20-25 players that participated this week will be invited for a second look in Winnipeg.
"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."
How'd I look, guys?: O'Shea
O'Shea was asked what this week was like for him as a rookie head coach on the field for the first time.
A former special teams coach, O'Shea said he missed not having as much time or opportunity this week to talk to players on the field. "It changes some of the information I can gather. As the special teams coach, being on the sideline and having a chance to talk more with each guy — I think there's certainly a benefit to that.
"I will have to adjust what I do at main camp to make sure I get that part, because I think it's important. But I felt pretty comfortable. Did I look comfortable, fellas?"
Pivots get marching orders
O'Shea said he was pleased with the play of all four quarterbacks—Drew Willy, Max Hall, Brian Brohm and Robert Marve — at mini-camp.
O'Shea said the next stage will involve offensive co-ordinator Marcel Bellefeuille and quarterbacks coach Gene Dahlquist issuing each man a set of instructions — based on what they showed on the field this week — on what to further work on in the lead up to main training camp.
"We'll sort of tailor their next six weeks so that they come in and they're prepared to help us win games," said O'Shea. "This has been a great environment for them and it was perfect for Gene to get a real solid look at these guys. And from Marcel's standpoint, he was very happy with the amount of material they absorbed. And the decision-making processes that have gone on from the very first practice until now has been very impressive."
YARDSTICKS: O'Shea said he was pleased by the performance of the six running backs that participated in mini-camp. Expect at least a couple to be brought to main camp in Winnipeg to challenge incumbent Will Ford... Receiver C.J. Tarver (5-8, 155 lbs -- Hudson Valley) showed some chops running back punts Tuesday and will likely get another look in Winnipeg.