KAMLOOPS — What’s that smell?
No, it’s not coming from the pulp mill. It’s the whiff of football in the air.
With the B.C. Lions 2012 training camp set to open in earnest on Sunday, let the competition for positions begin.
In reality, there are very few holes or jobs available on the roster of the Grey Cup champions. But here’s a look at some intriguing candidates from a three-day rookie camp who might overachieve and pick off returnees who regress.
• Courtney Taylor, receiver:
A former Seattle Seahawk draft pick (sixth round, 2007), Taylor has been the standout performer in rookie camp. That’s to be expected. He spent six weeks on the Lions’ expanded practice roster in 2011. While he didn’t see any game action then, Taylor, 28, looks as if he could this year, and not just in pre-season. “I had the privilege to watch Geroy [Simon], I had the privilege to watch Arland [Bruce], I had the privilege to watch some of the [CFL] greats, and how they do it,” Taylor explained. “I know how to execute after watching those older guys.”
• Nic Grigsby, running back:
The former Arizona Wildcat drove from his home in Tucson to Vancouver and almost became MIA, when the “low fuel” warning sounded in his car, 200 clicks from service, in a desert area without cell reception. “I was fortunate to coax it home,” Grigsby said. “Otherwise, I’d still be walking.” His brother, Marcellus, was a teammate of Lions’ Tim Brown at Temple, and Brown is Nic’s chief impediment to a running back/returner roster spot with the Lions. “He’s shown tremendous potential. I look forward to seeing him in the next phase,” said OC Jacques Chapdelaine.
• Maurice Evans, defensive lineman:
The Lions had some pretty good success before with another former D-lineman from Penn State — Cameron Wake, now with the Dolphins. “Cam was a once-in-a-lifetime player. You don’t find many like that,” said Lions D-coordinator Rich Stubler. Still, Evans had 12.5 sacks with the Nittany Lions in ’07, when he was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, and he possesses considerable savvy and NFL experience — Giants, Bucs, Panthers and Bears. Remarkably, he’s still only 23. “He’s explosive, and he has great athletic ability,” said Lions defensive line coach Carl Hairston.
• Brandon Jordan, defensive end:
Jordan, 23, played as a 325-pound offensive lineman at Illinois before dropping out of school in his sophomore year. He’s flown under the radar the past two years, playing indoor football in Chicago and Wichita, where he dropped 60 to 80 pounds and reverted to the defensive line. When the Lions tested him at a free-agent camp in Dallas, his 40 time was shocking — 4.53. “That’s almost running back speed,” Stubler said. “I know it’s true because I timed him. We’re looking for a rush end. You don’t often find people who are that big [6-5, 255] and that fast. “We still have to find out if he has the savvy.”
• Josh Bell, defensive back:
The ex-Baylor Bear started five games for the Broncos in ’09 as a replacement for injured corner Champ Bailey and later became something of a cause celebre in Green Bay, where he was denied a Super Bowl ring (after sustaining a broken foot in a Packers scrimmage and spending the 2010 season on injured reserve). No question about Bell’s mobility now. “Good feet, good mental aspect, asks good questions,” Stubler said. “We’re deep in the secondary, but we’re arguably the oldest secondary in the league. We need to start finding new people. He’s looked good against rookies. But when Geroy gets here, we’ll see how good he is.”