November 28, 2015


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It's long been joked that watching pre-season football is about as riveting as monitoring a tree as it forms its annual ring. And when the Bombers travel to Guelph with a collection of no names, many of whom likely won't be on the 42-man roster by the weekend, it hammers home how absolutely meaningless the outcome is tonight.

On Tuesday, head coach Tim Burke told 27 players they had already made the team. He then preached to the prospects the real opportunity they have to show they can play in the CFL. Worth noting is Burke also said earlier in the week he wouldn't be surprised if the Bombers get "blasted" in this one and that fans shouldn't read anything into the result.

Max Hall (16), Justin Goltz (18) and Chase Clements (14) are battling to see who will be No. 2 and No. 3 behind starting quarterback Buck Pierce (4).


Max Hall (16), Justin Goltz (18) and Chase Clements (14) are battling to see who will be No. 2 and No. 3 behind starting quarterback Buck Pierce (4). Purchase Photo Print

Jade Etienne (above) is battling Kito Poblah for a starting slotback position.


Jade Etienne (above) is battling Kito Poblah for a starting slotback position. Purchase Photo Print

So it's here where two philosophies essentially collide: The idea to keep starters healthy for the opener against Montreal on June 27 is sound in its approach, but it must be weighed against the concern about how ready this crew will be in a week.

And based on what was on display in a 24-6 loss to Toronto in the first pre-season game, the Bombers will have a ton of cramming to do to be ready for the always-powerful Alouettes.

"I don't think you ever feel you're ready, especially for the first game. But I think we're probably right where we should be," said Burke. "If you asked me this three days ago, I'd probably have said, 'No, we're not ready.' But I think we've come along. We've put guys through every game situation you can think of."



THIS will be the last chance to lock down a starting gig for some or secure a roster spot for others before the cuts come on the weekend. So don't tell guys like Jade Etienne -- who is fighting Kito Poblah for a starting slotback job -- or newcomers like defensive back Marty Markett, receiver Trevor Kennedy or defensive end Anthony DeGrate that this game means diddly squat. The score may not matter, but how they pop off the game film can make or break careers.

"There's a handful of guys who have opportunities to be starters and if they do well in this game, they'll be starters," said Burke.

When asked what starting jobs might be up for grabs, the coach added this, with a sly grin:

"No. I'd rather not, because I don't want them to read it in the paper. No offence, but I don't want them knowing that I know."

Our own thoughts, for what it's worth: Clearly there is an opening to replace Jonathan Hefney in the secondary, Kenny Mainor is hardly a lock at defensive end, there is a scrap at right tackle between the three imports making the trip in Shannon Boatman, Andre Douglas and Aderious Simmons and the backup QB chores are Justin Goltz's for the taking.

Yes, sometimes the subplots can be more interesting that the main storyline.



IT was interesting to see Goltz address the crew playing in this game after practice earlier this week. His message was to remind everyone of the opportunity here and to study up on Hamilton to get a feel for their opponent.

Good idea... and that goes double for the guys on the offensive line.

Goltz will start the game and play most of the first half as he attempts to hold off newcomers Max Hall and Chase Clement and land the back-up QB chores to Buck Pierce. The lineup in front of him will feature two starters on the O-line in centre Justin Sorensen and Boatman and a receiving corps that features three CFL rookies, along with Etienne, Doug Pierce and Kurt Adams, who have a grand total of seven receptions between them.


"The guys that are going to be there have talent," said Burke. "We would not put an offensive line out there that is going to get our quarterback killed. I think he's got enough tools out there to work with."



LET'S all assume Alex Hall, Bryant Turner, JT Gilmore and Kenny Mainor have the starting four jobs along the defensive front secured, although it sounds like Mainor's name shouldn't be written in ink. It's also likely Ryan Lucas and Jake Thomas, the Canadians, will somehow be in the discussion when the games start for real.

All that said, while some of the newcomers have shown the periodic flash, none have dropped jaws. In fact, on those occasions when Burke has hinted at possibly needing help somewhere on the roster, it's easy to surmise this is the area he has circled in red. So, good morning Marquis Frazier, Anthony DeGrate, Freddie Harris and Zach Anderson... this is your wake-up call.



JONATHAN HEFNEY'S hasty exit opens the door for Demond Washington to replace him and that seems a lock for Week 1. Newcomers David James and Wesley Pendleton -- the only players listed at halfback for Thursday's game -- hope to muddy that discussion by standing out against the Ticats. Desia Dunn is the lone player at the nickelback linebacker position -- a spot reserved for Johnny Sears Jr. as he recovers from injury.

So, what does all this tell us as the pre-season is about to end? The Bombers' game plan for today's tilt might best be described this way: get in, get out healthy and then get to work for the real games.


-- with files from Paul Wiecek Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 20, 2013 D2

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