ULLRICH: B.C. Lions put trust in new OC Jarious Jackson

The question is among the biggest of training camp in Kamloops for the B.C. Lions yet can’t be answered until Jarious Jackson is at work as offensive coordinator for the CFL team in a regular season game for the first time in his career.

If you’re trying to figure out whether the Lions will be more successful with another newbie than they were with Khari Jones calling the plays with relatively the same experience starting out, it’s at least idyllic to look at Jackson’s resume and the coaches who have been an influence along the way.

That was a topic at training camp Wednesday when Jackson was asked about influences as a means to peek under the covers at what veteran players have described as a new Lions offence.

The names thrown out, from Mike Shanahan with the Denver Broncos to Scott Milanovich with the Toronto Argonauts, was impressive, but only served to illustrate their combined Super Bowl and Grey Cup coaching wins (4) equals Jackson’s career hardware haul.

It hardly amounts to any guarantee of success in his first season in charge of a three-down offence, but the Lions are more than confident their former quarterback is a better fit as a play-calling mentor for incumbent starter Jon Jennings this year than Jones.

“I just look back at things that work,” said Jackson. “I don’t care if it’s Oklahoma in college or the Seattle Seahawks when Darrell Bevell was there with the style of quarterback they have with Russell Wilson. You pull things from different people and transform it to your game.

“If you’re a basketball player you watch Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and you try to intimate things they do, and you may be athletic enough to also dribble the ball like Allen Iverson. You morph those things and make it your game.

“For me I went to Notre Dame. I have things from there. I have things from Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak which come from Denver. It’s all west coast offence. You have to give credit when it comes to Scott Milanovich and Jacques Chapdelaine; all of those guys have had influence.”

So dare to dream if you insist.

What may or may not be slightly more informative are the offensive numbers since Jackson left the Lions in 2014 and worked for four seasons alongside offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo in Edmonton and Saskatchewan as pass game coordinator.

In Edmonton, Jackson worked with Mike Reilly and the Eskimos finished no worse than second in yardage during two seasons. With the Riders the last two years, Jackson worked with Darian Durant and Kevin Glenn behind centre and the Riders finished in the bottom two in rushing and the bottom half of the league in passing.

So there’s no parallel in which to gauge whether Jackson can revive Jennings, which trumps every serious camp storyline associated with the Lions despite the litany of feel-good, behind-the-scenes pieces that dominate the agenda.

It is simply far easier to give in to the good vibes coming from the central characters that are always in overabundance in camp.

“He has a good structure in the way he does things,” Jennings said of Jackson. “We’re going to utilize my strengths with (run-pass option) stuff like a lot of teams do but there’s going to be a good balance.”

“Without being too critical or comparing (to Jones), the one thing with Jarious is that it just look likes there’s a lot more motion and misdirection,” said coach Wally Buono.

“You don’t want to get too far ahead but you can see the play-action more, the quarterback is moving more, and you can see the ability to get the ball in the hands of playmakers.”

Or, with Joel Figueroa and Jovan Olafioye as replacement tackles and a much beefier David Foucault looking comfortable early at right guard, the Lions might simply be better because the quarterback won’t have to constantly consider running to safe his football life. Influences and statistics be damned.

LIONS TALES: Foucault is listed at 315 pounds by the club, up 10 from last year, and there’s talk that gain is a conservative estimate. BC has a job opening with the exit of Kirby Fabien on the offensive line and so far Foucault is making sure rookies David Knevel or Peter Godber don’t get a chance. “Last year was new for him and for some reason he dropped a lot of weight which effected his strength. He’s a powerful man and the extra work and weight he’s done in the off-season is very evident,” Buono said of Foucault…. Buono and Stampeders president John Hufnagel were major proponents of the rule change passed by the league Wednesday that bans the ability of coaches to challenge illegal contact penalties. “The biggest thing we wanted to do was get the fishing out of it,” Buono said… Travis Lulay experienced knee swelling after the first back-to-back practice of camp Tuesday and didn’t participate Wednesday.

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.