First-year Calgary Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel has been all business through the first two weeks of training camp.
The serious tone is reflective of the tough decisions the new boss is faced with while paring his lineup for the upcoming Canadian Football League season. He holds in his hands the fate of some 75 players hoping to win jobs and sorting through the collection of prospects was made even more difficult after a 39-14 steamrolling of the Edmonton Eskimos in the pre-season opener Friday night at McMahon Stadium.
Hufnagel’s troops breezed through their first test, proving some painful decisions lay ahead.
“I thought our team responded awfully well to their first test and some good things happened on both sides of the football,” said Hufnagel.
“It was a good start but we have a long way to go, obviously.”
Almost everything went Calgary’s way, complicating Hufnagel’s personnel moves leading up to the June 21 deadline for final player cuts.
The Stampeders new-look defence was sensational, albeit against an Eskimos lineup devoid of starting quarterback Ricky Ray and a handful of other bona fide starters.
The revamped unit under new defensive coordinator Chris Jones allowed Esks starter Stefan LeFors to post just 97 yards of offence in the opening half while keeping Edmonton’s offence off the board until the final minute of the contest.
Along the defensive line Miguel Robede looked capable of winning a starting job while the linebacking crew was led by the steady play of newcomer Saleem Rasheed, who took steps to win the first-string job in the middle.
Veteran safety Wes Lysack also drew attention with his solid play while delivering the hit of the game on Esks receiver Clarence Moore.
The Stamps offensive line, also a focus of concern during camp, enjoyed a successful debut protecting Calgary quarterbacks Henry Burris, Dave Dickenson, Barrick Nealy and Ben Sankey, who took turns piling up 555 yards of offence.
The o-line also impressed with its run-blocking for starting tailback Joffrey Reynolds, who rushed for 54 yards on just four carries. Along with newcomers Ken Simonton, Demetris Summers and Jon Cornish, the ball-carrying foursome piled up close to 300 yards along the ground.
“It was a great building block for our o-line,” noted veteran right tackle Jeff Pilon, the longest-serving member of the offensive line.
“To finally get out there in a real game situation felt good. All four of our running backs were great, too. They helped to make us all look good.”