There was an instinctive negative reaction by Wally Buono when asked if the performance in first CFL game by Ricky Lloyd could be compared to a pair of Grey Cup quarterbacks like Jeff Garcia and Mike Reilly until facts were provided for contextual evidence.
Like, Garcia and Reilly back in the day were this close to being cut by the CFL’s career coaching wins leader before they did something in their first pre-season game.
And on that score at any rate, the three touchdowns thrown by Lloyd as B.C. Lions backups beat their counterparts on the Calgary Stampeders 36-23 Friday can prove the point that as others before him had shown, it’s best not to waste an opportunity.
Lloyd wasn’t just a cut candidate when the Lions set their training camp roster. He beat the odds getting this far. In a scenario not all that far removed from the one which landed Buck Pierce in the CFL, Lloyd put down his $100US to attend a Lions tryout camp in Los Angeles in March unscouted and only until he got in front of GM Ed Hervey did the club want to see him pass two subsequent auditions, three if you count his debut.
Lloyd is already quite good at applying for work, however. He only transferred to Minnesota State from Southern Mississippi in college when the team’s offensive coordinator tweeted he was looking for a quarterback.
“At that point I was at a standstill. My high school coach showed me the tweet. I went out for a little visit and they liked what they saw and I ended up doing very well there,” explained Lloyd, a Christmas-born 25-year-old from Concord, Cal.
The motion-based CFL offence overwhelmed Lloyd during his first week of practice with the Lions but he clearly has made some strides. It’s way too soon to draw conclusions – B.C.’s quarterback candidate of record in a pre-season game at Calgary last year, Alex Ross, went 1-8 passing in his first game for Winnipeg Friday.
It is, however, fair to suggest that the quarterback factory operated by Buono over the years has not yet shut down early during his final season on the sidelines.
A few other things learned and noted in the win:
Men in motion: It normally is completely against the pre-season code of conduct for coaches to reveal much of anything but an early observation could be drawn that new offensive coordinator Jarious Jackson will be far more liberal in his use of misdirection.
Jackson left Jeremiah Johnson and Chris Rainey with a large number of likely starters back at their Kamloops compound Friday but the work of backup candidates Travon Van and Shaun Wick combined with some blocking changes indicate the Lions are intent on utilizing a different look than many formations used by predecessor Khari Jones..
“One of the attractive things about the offence Jarious runs is that not only does the running game put pressure on the line of scrimmage but the motion puts a lot on the eyes. If the eyes are in the wrong place you can definitely get hurt,” Buono said Saturday.
“He likes the motion, the cross-action, the play-action and as we get better with the timing we will definitely be profitable.”
Still on the line: Some position battles, and there’s inevitably still a few on a team which is guaranteed 14 new starters, are eliminated by circumstances, and the ankle injury that put wideout Tyler Davis in a walking boot Saturday will make it far easier for the Lions to keep import receivers Ricky Collins and Kevin Elliott.
B.C., however, doesn’t appear any closer to settling the composition of the linebacking corps on either side of Solomon Elimimian. Dyshawn Davis, Bo Lokombo and Keelan Johnson were all solid at weak-side linebacker and special teams. Otha Foster is the projected strong-side hybrid starter but rookie Steffon Herd showed to be a worthwhile project player if he has the stomach and pocketbook for the practice roster.
Herd (6’3”, 210, Northeastern, Ok., State) had an interception and forced two fumbles in a game in which the Lions produced 24 points from seven turnovers. B.C. has 11 linebackers and not more than a handful of obvious cut candidates among them.
It’s a different scenario along the defensive front though. With all their projected veteran starters in Kamloops, hardly anyone stood out and the one who did suffered from a case of mistaken identity.
“We didn’t have the premier guys but Ivan McMillan, or whatever his name is, did an excellent job,” said Buono. Import Ivan McLennan, who is a lock for a roster spot and very identifiable throughout camp, will be thrilled to know he has been noticed.