From Saskatchewan east, 13 current and former Saskatchewan Huskie players are participating in 2011 CFL training camps, the most of any Canada West school.
In Regina, the acquisition of fullback Graeme Bell (@graemebell24) was one of the factors that led to the release of veteran Chris Szarka. Bell will join an offence anchored by 17 year veteran Gene Makowsky, the former Huskie and Canada West All-Star who has been named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Lineman twice in his career.
Makowsky will be taking on a mentorship role with the young offensive linemen in Roughrider camp, including 2010 draft pick and CIS First Team All-Canadian Patrick Neufeld (@paddyneufeld). After last weekend’s rookie camp, Neufeld, via Twitter, told the Outsider that: “Rookie camp went well for me, still have lots to work do but feeling good about it.”
Huskie middle linebacker Peter Thiel (@thielpeter) signed a free agent deal with the Riders shortly before training camp. A 2010 Canada West All-Star, Tweeted on Friday that: “It’s going great down here in Regina. Really going to get going tomorrow when the veterans get here though!” Thiel, who has two years of eligibility remaining with the Huskies, is realistic about what he will have to do to make the Riders. “I have to be a great special-teams player: Be able to cover, be able to block – I have to get my shot that way,” he told the Ian Hamilton of the Regina Leader-Post. “To do that, I have to work my hardest, never take a play off, always be attentive in meetings, get my head in my playbook and know what I’m doing every time so that when opportunities arise in camp, I’m able to make the most of them . . . I’m not going to squander the opportunity.”
In Winnipeg, fourth overall CFL draft pick Jade Etienne (@jadeetienne) Tweeted to the Outsider that “Its goin’ good! Next level of competition, that’s for sure. Everything’s bigger, better, faster.” The leading receiver in the Canada West last season, who was named a CIS First Team All-Canadian, had some rough moments in rookie camp, but after a pep-talk by Head Coach Paul LaPolice, is settling into main camp. “Today I felt a lot better than I did the last two days,” Etienne told Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun. “I don’t know what was happening. I don’t know. I let the media get to me, I guess. I just let the pressure kind of get to me.
“(The meeting) kind of calmed me down. He just told me to have fun. Come out here and have fun, and you’ll be all right. That’s what really got me over the nerves, I guess.”
Etienne has a big fan in veteran teammate Terrance Edwards. “I told (current Blue Bomber and former Huskie Scott McHenry) to tell him he’s my favourite player in the CIS, and here we go drafting him,” Edwards said. “I’m eager to work with him and eager to work with all these guys.” Speaking of McHenry (@TheScottMcHenry), he is a top candidate to replace veteran fullback Jon Oosterhuis, who was cut by the Blue Bombers prior to camp opening. McHenry’s place on the team is looking more certain after Tuesday’s release of receiver Liam Mahoney.
Heading east, there was some speculation that a ratio change on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defence may cost safety Dylan Barker (@Barqs20) his starting position. However, it was reported that on Tuesday, Barker had received the largest share of first team reps at safety. The former first overall draft pick and two-time CIS First Team All-Canadian looks like he is in good shape to keep his starting spot.
Also in Hamilton, Rory Kohlert, who had 461 yards receiving for the Huskies in 2010, is in a favourable position to secure a roster spot after two of his main competitors, former UBC Thunderbird Blaine Kruger and Regina Ram Brenden Owens, were cut.
Up the QEW in Toronto, Argonauts long snapper and slotback Chad Rempel (@Remp82), who was a two-time Canada West All-Star receiver for the Huskies, is looking forward to his eighth season in the league. He is joined by former Huskie kicker and defensive back Grant Shaw, who Argos head coach Jim Barker believes is the kicker of the future: “Jim Barker says Grant Shaw might do some kicking off this year, otherwise will be on special teams,” Tweeted Toronto Sun sports writer Terry Koshun. “Jim Barker on Grant Shaw: ‘He is the future here. Prefontaine has a year, maybe two left.’”
The two-time defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes received their latest championship rings in a ceremony prior to training camp opening. The rings were designed by general manager Jim Popp and three players, including former Huskie Scott Flory. The two-time CFL Most Outstanding Lineman and two-time Vanier Cup champion is entering his thirteenth season with the Alouettes. He recently talked with Montreal radio station CJAD about his future in football and what his plans are post-football.
Former Huskie defensive end Ivan Brown signed a contract extension with the Alouettes on January 12 and will be looking for his third Grey Cup ring in his third CFL season. Also seeking his third championship is former first team CIS All-Canadian cornerback Paul Woldu (@paulwoldu), who may be in line for a starting position after strong special teams play each of the past three seasons.