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This article was published 2/9/2015 (2082 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The University of Manitoba Bisons have conducted a very different training camp for a very demanding Canada West football schedule.
Bisons head coach Brian Dobie, about to begin his 20th season at the helm, said the task facing his 10th-ranked squad to start the season is unmatched in the nation.
It starts Friday in Saskatoon against the eighth-ranked Huskies and continues at home the following two weekends against No. 4 Calgary and No. 7 UBC, respectively.
"I don't even think it's close... there are four teams in the top 10 from Canada West, unquestionably the toughest conference in the nation this year," Dobie said at a press availability Tuesday. "We have the toughest start in the nation. We open up against three teams ranked ahead of us, all top-10 teams."
To get ready, Dobie said the team has modified its training camp preparations under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Matt Barr.
"This is the first year that training camp became a three-week deal instead of a two-week deal and for all the right reasons," Dobie said. "We were able to have fewer two-a-days and even able to take a couple of days off in the middle of training camp, and that part was all him.
"I fought it. Change isn't always easy for people. Matt was adamant. He felt if we went hard for three of our days and then literally gave them a day off, we'd be able to come back and go just as hard or harder and we'd avoid a lot of those hamstring and groin injuries.
"We slow-played it a bit and it's paid off. This is the healthiest we've been coming out of training camp. Yes, we have two or three players down like everybody else but at this point, probably less than most and certainly less than we've had before."
Dobie also said the team's investment in new equipment with GPSports monitoring technology has aided the preparation for the season. The battery-powered electronic monitors go on a harness under players' shoulder pads.
"It's very high end and tracks everything the athlete does," Dobie said. "We've experimented over the last year with it and it's amazing what we get out of it."
The measurements of collisions and a player's velocity, in particular, have helped the team train and play more efficiently.
"We're substituting better," Dobie said. "We're finding ways to warm up better. It has affected how we ran training camp. We're trying to become more scientific about it.
"The data we're getting is extremely valuable."
The Bisons were 4-4 in the 2014 regular season but won late to make the playoffs, then won two post-season games to reach the nation's final four.
"We've lost a lot of key players," he said. "Nic Demski... we can't replicate that. You just don't take a four-time all-Canadian and replace him. And (quarterback) Jordan Yantz.
"But we have a lot of veterans back. In some cases they weren't the impact guys... but they've experienced those runs and building the program. They've been through the process and progress and they understand what it takes.
"When players have those kinds of experiences, no matter what sport it is or at what level, there becomes what I'll call an automatic buy-in. Success makes believers out of people."
Apart from his enthusiasm to start the season, Dobie was also energized Tuesday after the news former Bisons assistant coach and Winnipegger Bob Dyce is taking over as interim coach of the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Dyce's son Tristen is a freshman receiver with the Bisons.
"I'm ecstatic about it," said Dobie, who worked with Dyce for seven seasons at U of M. "However it turns out, it's a shining moment for him, a life moment. And yeah, he's in a crazy-tough situation but it doesn't matter; he's the head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders."