The V.I. Raiders got their first chance this year to work together as a team.
Nanaimo’s junior football team held its spring camp Friday through Sunday at Merle Logan Field, putting 85 players through four practices and an intrasquad game.
It was the first Raiders camp led by new coach Jerome Erdman.
“The attitude has been awesome, everyone is working hard, everyone is really upbeat, helping each other out,” Erdman said. “It’s a real sense of family and at the same time, a great competition, so I’m loving what I’m seeing.”
Those are important components of the team-building aspect of spring camp, the coach said.
“Our vets have done an outstanding job of welcoming the new players, making them feel part of a family,” he said. “And they learn to respect each other through competition. They’re going at it, hammer and nail, and then they pick each other up and that’s how it’s got to be.”
In addition to the Raiders coaches, the club had plenty of help from guest coaches including retired B.C. Lions centre Angus Reid and current Lions running back Andrew Harris.
Reid said helping at camp is a great way to stay involved with football. He tried to teach tips and techniques and found that the players were continually asking for more.
“What I’ve been so impressed with is their willingness and eagerness to learn,” Reid said. “They try to do what you say and then when you see it work, you see the confidence just jump out of them and now they want to learn more.”
Working with Raiders offensive linemen, Reid saw “super hard workers” committed to getting better. Erdman said the O-line unit was a strength area at camp, and the new coach said the defensive backs were another standout group.
“If you’ve got DBs that are good and that can cover, then you can be more aggressive with what you do as far as blitzing and all that sort of stuff, and that excites me because I like doing that anyway,” Erdman said.
He consulted with his assistants and with his guest coaches throughout the camp and formulated a lot of opinions on personnel at all positions.
“We’ve got a pretty good handle on the talent that we have,” he said.
The camp was filmed and will be reviewed and then over the next week or two, Raiders coaches will be in contact with players they’re inviting back to main camp. A few players were unable to attend spring camp due to work commitments or other reasons, so all told, Erdman said the team would like to move forward with approximately the same number of guys who were at spring camp. The coach said he expects the Raiders will have deserving starters at all positions, so any further recruiting will be for depth.
Not every player who was at spring camp this past weekend will choose Nanaimo. Junior football’s June 1 signing day has become a bigger deal in recent years as players try to choose the right program.
“That’s our goal, to show them what Raider football’s going to be like,” Erdman said. “We’re going to be high-intensity, we’re going to be working our butts off and we’re going to demand a lot of them. We’ve got to be who we are, and if they want to be a part of something like that, then they’ll come here.”
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) May 18, 2015