Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Jun 6 2015, Page 60

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - June 6, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE C4 TODAY’S TRAINING CAMP REPORT SATURDAY, JUNE 6, 2015 C 4 T HESE are, unofficially, the dog days of Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp. That initial rahrah- rah enthusiasm has completely evaporated for some, and sick bay is now overflowing with players nursing pulls and cramps, bumps and bruises. So Day 6 is about to wrap up when receiver Jhomo Gordon explodes off the line of scrimmage, runs his route and finds himself open — again — to pull in a perfect toss from Brian Brohm for a touchdown. Again. You see, what Gordon did on the last play from scrimmage Friday mirrored his handiwork on Thursday. He also jumped off the page on Wednesday, on Tuesday, on Monday... heck, dating back to the start of rookie camp on May 27. He did the exact same thing in Florida at the team’s mini- camp in April. And he was easily the best player on the field at the club’s play- in camp that preceded the minicamp — the one that cost him $ 100 to enter and promised him absolutely, positively nothing other than a look- see from the brass. Interestingly, here’s what the Bombers knew of Gordon the moment he arrived virtually unannounced in Bradenton, Fla., after making the 2 ½ - hour drive from Palm Bay on Florida’s east coast: Absolutely, positively nothing. And now? Asked Friday how Gordon has looked, head coach Mike O’Shea was to the point: “ Fast. And alone. I’m glad we got him.” Look, coaches can break down film on every player, receivers included, until their eyes are bleary. They can study a guy’s footwork, the precision of his routes, his hands, his “ waggle” — how he attacks the line of scrimmage pre- snap — and what he does after the ball is tucked away after a catch. But “ fast” and “ alone” also says a heckuva lot. And with each passing day Gordon, the youngest player trying out for the Bombers at 21, becomes one of camp’s more intriguing stories. Born in Jamaica on Nov. 10, 1993, Gordon moved to Florida when he was in Grade 6. He attended Bethune- Cookman University in Florida — the same school that produced former Bomber Stevie Baggs — this past winter and still needs three credits for his computer engineering degree. Just for the record, he’s hoping he’ll have to skip the fall term while he chases this pro football thing in Canada. “ I like to travel, but I had never been to Canada before until last week,” said Gordon. “ I guess, technically, my first stop was in Toronto, but the first place I ever got outside of an airport was here in Winnipeg. It’s nice. “ It’s funny, I talk to my mom, my sister, my little brother, my nephew and my girlfriend every day on my iPad, on Facetime, and they want to know what the scenery is like, what the city is like. “ I tell them, ‘ I don’t know. I’ve just been to the football field, to meetings and then I go back home.’ I haven’t seen much yet.” The Bombers have seen enough to know they potentially have something special in Gordon. A track/ football star in high school, Gordon started 11 games for Bethune- Cookman last year, pulling in 36 passes for 527 yards and five TDs. Nice totals, but with the NCAA pumping out thousands of footballers every year, hardly anything to make pro scouts anywhere really take notice. Gordon, admittedly, is still trying to soak up as much as possible. He’s not only new to the three- down game, he’s new to being a pro, new to the grind of training camp... he’s new to everything. Over and over again on Friday he spoke of just simply trying to take advantage of the opportunity this Bomber tryout has presented to him. He’s certainly not going to over- complicate matters. An example: asked to provide a bit of a self- scouting report — his strengths, areas he needs to work on, etc. — Gordon shrugged. “ You know, I guess I’m a little bit faster than others,” he said. “ And so I just try to run by everybody and if not, when I get the ball I just try to run as fast as I can and make plays. I’m just trying to take advantage of any opportunity I get and help the team. Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do it. “ This is definitely something worth chasing. Chasing something is what I do. I like a challenge. I like to get better.” ed. tait@ freepress. mb. ca Twitter: @ WFPEdTait HEAD football coach and stockbroker share many of the same goals — invest in assets and try to maximize value. Winnipeg Blue Bombers field boss Mike O’Shea sounds like he’s very invested in 26- year- old defender Don Unamba. Last season, O’Shea bought into the CFL newcomer from Arlington, Texas, dressing the linebacker and special- teams player for all 18 regular- season games. This spring, with training camp a week old, O’Shea is now into the maximizing — he’s got Unamba also trying his hand at the corner position as well. “ I’m a little bit of everything,” Unamba grinned after Friday’s sessions at the University of Manitoba. “ We’re just trying to figure out where they want to fit me in right now. It’s fun right now, learning different positions. That allows me to learn the playbook better, learn what everybody’s doing. “ I take pride in being a versatile player they can put everywhere. That’s fun. It’s the coach’s idea, but I don’t have any problem with it. I love it.” It’s no wonder O’Shea is willing to see if Unamba can expand his horizons. “ I think Unamba is a good athlete,” the coach said Friday. “ He’s a bigger guy at those positions. I think in my mind he’s probably best- suited to work out in the box ( as a linebacker). “ But once again, Don Unamba was our leading special- teams tackler last year and he deserves every opportunity at a number of positions to see where it’s all going to fit for him.” O’Shea might still be leaning in the linebacker direction, but it’s far from settled. “ His style of game as a DB is to get his hands on guys and break them off,” O’Shea said. “ So it’s different, that the rules are also different for him, too.” New CFL rules prohibiting contact between receiver and defender beyond five yards from the line of scrimmage are now in place. Unamba, though, has experience as a corner and safety in his career, including at college and his brief stops with NFL teams in St. Louis and Buffalo. “ I’m in the box at linebacker,” he said. “ I’m down in the trenches sometimes, holding them back, dropping. It’s dirty and grimy down there. I’m getting after the ball, there are more tackles. I can be an aggressive player, that’s good for my aggressive nature. “ In the back end as safety and corner, I’m reading, reading, stepping, making breaks on routes and covering guys, covering speed and being everywhere, flying around.” Unamba’s athleticism and his adaptability — he’d never been near the Canadian game before last spring — paid some dividends later in the season when he got some starts at linebacker. “ That was real important for me mentally, everything I went through and just working hard,” he said. tim. campbell@ freepress. mb. ca MIKE O’SHEA is big on grit, determination and the “ old- school” stuff that matters to football coaches all over the planet. So while he tries to be understanding and patient, the growing list of walking wounded at Bombers camp has to be equal parts concerning and annoying — especially with the club opening its pre- season schedule Tuesday in Toronto against the Argonauts. Not practising Friday due to a variety of ailments were offensive linemen Patrick Neufeld, Marc Dile and Stanley Bryant, defensive lineman Zach Anderson, receivers Nick Moore, Rory Kohlert, Julian Feoli- Gudino, Addison Richards and Justin Veltung, safety Maurice Leggett, running back Bradley Randle, defensive back Bruce Johnson and linebackers Justin Warden, Graig Newman and Dan West. Every team suffers through a swack of injuries early in camp, but with the pre- season tilt just a few days away — and the regular season opening in just over three weeks — the Bombers need every rep of every day to make their evaluations. So it was with that backdrop O’Shea was asked following practice Friday if those who were healthy and participating were helping themselves by grinding it out every day. “ I like toughness, obviously. I like guys who gut it out. That’s important to me,” said O’Shea. “ When you’re down in numbers it also means they are forced to take more reps, so what you have to do as a coaching staff is drop the numbers in terms of your practice reps, and you have to be able to pick them up at some point later. It’s just a bit of a balancing act. Sometimes what happens when you get injuries at certain positions, it can wear the guy out a little bit in front of him. “ We’ll have to keep that in mind and manage it properly before the game, so they can show their best stuff.” O’Shea said the Bombers will dress 54 players in Toronto and while his plan for the five quarterbacks on the depth chart has been set, the pivots had yet to be told of the rotation. The roster will be a mix of veterans and rookies, but likely will be dominated by some of the fresh faces. “ You just look through the roster and look where some guys are nicked up… it’s going to play out differently in certain areas,” said O’Shea. “ There in itself, is a challenge. If you want to get a good look at some tailbacks then you’ve need to keep productive on the O- line. So you can’t just put all the young guys in all at once.” NEW BLUE BLOOD: The Bombers made one addition on Friday, signing import linebacker Tony Burnett. A 6- 1, 205- pound product of USC, Burnett was signed by the San Diego Chargers after going undrafted in 2013 and got a training- camp look from the B. C. Lions last year. While with the Trojans, Burnett played a number of positions, including cornerback, linebacker and safety. MULTI- TASKING: Troy Stoudermire continues to be busy through training camp on both sides of the ball. He wore an offensive jersey for the first chunk of practice Friday as a receiver, then switched to defensive back for the second half. And, oh yeah, he’s also the team’s best kick returner. But the workload isn’t necessarily what O’Shea wants for Stoudermire long- term. “ We can help the team by getting him involved as much as possible, obviously,” said O’Shea. But we’re not doing him favours, because there’s two sets of meetings, two sets of installations every single night. We also have to see where it works for our team.” ed. tait@ freepress. mb. ca Twitter: @ WFPEdTait By Ed Tait Speedy Gordon has flash Florida receiver blowing by defenders at Bombers camp ‘ You know, I guess I’m a little bit faster than others. And so I just try to run by everybody and if not, when I get the ball I just try to run as fast as I can and make plays’ — camp hopeful Jhomo Gordon JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Training camp hopeful Jhomo Gordon is burning up the field at the University of Manitoba as the Blue Bombers work through training camp. JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Blue Bombers linebacker Don Unamba is now trying his hand at corner. Unamba a man whose stock is rising By Tim Campbell Already a raft of walking wounded Those still available taking extra reps By Ed Tait Stanley Bryant Rory Kohlert C_ 04_ Jun- 06- 15_ FP_ 01. indd C4 6/ 5/ 15 8: 09: 36 PM

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