The season is still a couple of weeks away, but the V.I. Raiders know that winning at main camp is a part of winning football games.
Nanaimo’s Canadian Junior Football League club will hold its camp Friday through Sunday (July 8-10) in Duncan.
Coach Jerome Erdman said his players have to come into camp ready to go, and he expects that to be the case.
“We’ll be working our butts off. We’ll be having fun, too,” he said. “At the end of the day, they know what it takes to win … They’ve been in the game long enough to know that you’re not going to get any success without hard work.”
He and the coaching staff are planning a challenging few days. Erdman was happy with how last year’s camp went and will stick with what worked.
“It’s always different because you have all the new players coming in and there’s going to be a new dynamic,” he said.
Virtually every player the Raiders liked at spring camp has committed to the team, and along with returnees and recent additions, there will be about 80 guys at camp.
“That’s a good number, because it’s not just a number,” said Erdman. “They’re 80 quality guys.”
There will be all kind of battles to watch at camp as players look to prove themselves at various positions.
Most notably, the quarterbacking picture is undetermined going into camp, with Jake Laberge from Coquitlam, North Rainey and Brody Taylor from Nanaimo and Kevin Chopek from Medicine Hat all conceivable starters.
The running back unit got shaken up with the recent addition of Jahvari Bennett, a 1,000-yard rusher in the CIS last season.
The defensive backfield will be a fierce camp battle, as the Raiders feel they have a ton of really good players there. It’s a similar story with the receiving corps, and Erdman is also interested to see how the offensive line and defensive line units will come together.
“That’s the beauty of camp,” the coach said. “You have a group, but we don’t have a depth chart, so whoever wins the battle is going to play. That’s fun for coaches and for players, too.
“That’s why you work so hard, because you get what you earn.”
Whereas spring camp was more about evaluation, at main camp, the Raiders know all the guys there can play, so they’re looking at the athletes through a different lens.
“Now we’ve got to teach them our system and sometimes that’s where you find a few things out…” Erdman said. “When you go to training camp you’re tired, you’re beat and you get a lot thrown at you mentally, so that’s when you really find out what you’ve got.”
Main camp is taking place at Queen of Angels School in Duncan. The first practice is Friday night, there will be two practices on Saturday, one more on Sunday morning and then an intrasquad game Sunday afternoon.
The season starts July 23 when the Kamloops Broncos come to Nanaimo.