John Hufnagel didn’t feel Stampeders had to draft OL despite retirements of Bergman, Erdos

Photo courtesy: Wilfrid Laurier Athletics, Mike Veltri

As a wizard of the CFL Draft who has spun many a late-round selection into gold, John Hufnagel felt this year’s annual draft bonanza was a little unusual.

“The draft was unpredictable,” Hufnagel said, “but I can’t speak to what the other teams were doing.”

Hufnagel liked the results of the draft with a mix of players to bolster some positions immediately, and a look towards the future.

3DownNation had extensive coverage of the draft from our experts Justin Dunk, John Hodge and JC Abbott, including a livestream as it happened and draft grades for every pick.

Looking at Calgary’s picks, it seems clear that the Stampeders are longing for the halcyon days when ratio-breaker Alex Singleton was patrolling the middle while looking at the date on Cory Greenwood’s birth certificate as three of the first four picks are listed at linebacker.

The focus on the future was sharpened due to the cancellation of the 2020 season meaning all the draft picks from last year will also be coming into camp as rookies.

With both classes combined, the Stampeders are looking at bringing ten players — four receivers, three linebackers, two linemen on either side of the ball, a kicker and a defensive back. Both a linebacker and a running back are not expected at camp this year (and maybe never) should their NFL aspirations pan out.

For those who are looking for the why’s regarding this draft class and their selections, Hufnagel had answers.

LB Amen Ogbongbemiga, Oklahoma State

Currently signed as an undrafted free agent in San Diego, Ogbongbemiga will compete for the middle linebacker spot as soon as he gets to Calgary. The question remains if he ever will. He earned a $30,000 signing bonus from the Chargers, which means he may be considered more than just a camp body.

“I wish him luck,” Hufnagel said.

OL Bryce Bell, Wilfrid Laurier

Hufnagel said that if Bryce Bell wasn’t available at the eleven spot, the Stampeders may have considered going to another position, but they couldn’t pass on the six-foot-three, 295-pound tackle.

Hodge expects to Bell to move inside after playing tackle in college, but Hufnagel said Bell has excellent fundamentals and that “he will compete” while only referring to Bell as a tackle.

Hufnagel also said they only took one offensive lineman in this draft despite the off-season retirements of Shane Bergman and Brad Erdos because they feel comfortable with the players that were already in the system.

LB Charlie Moore, Calgary

“He’s a very physical player — he’s a missile,” remarked the Stamps GM when discussing 2019 Vanier Cup champion Moore. With the addition of Moore and 2018 draft choice Fraser Sopik, the Stampeders are auditioning for the future middle linebacker starting spot.

Despite leading the league in tackles when he was injured in 2019, Cory Greenwood will be turning 36 just before the season is scheduled to start. Injuries have kept the tread on the tires fresh over his career, but Father Time waits for no one.

LB Elliot Graham, UBC

Graham will earn his stripes on special teams if he is to find a home in Calgary. Assistant head coach and special teams Coordinator Mark Kilam loves guys with this body type firing down the field to make plays.

Graham played defensive end his last year in college, but Hufnagel suggested he preferred his tape as a linebacker.

RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State

A fourth-round selection of the Carolina Panthers in the 2021 NFL Draft, Hubbard is another player who may never come back to Canada for professional football.

“I took a flier,” Hufnagel said, know Hubbard will be in the NFL for the foreseeable future. Hubbard is an elite running back and if he does come north, the Stampeders would be thrilled.

REC Luther Hakunavanhu, York

Hakunavanhu is six-foot-four and runs a 4.60 forty-yard dash. He run solid routes, though he is also guilty of committing too many drops, which both he and Hufnagel agree needs to be fixed.

Likely returning for a final year at York, Hakunavanhu will come to camp before going back with that as a primary focus of his senior season.

When asked about the process of getting ready for the draft without being able to meet players in person, Hufnagel was grateful for having video conferencing and agreed how much tougher it is to get the measure of a player when you aren’t in the same room.

“It’s better than a phone call, anyway,” he remarked before speaking to the normal process of getting everyone in a room with the coaches.

Every organization faced the same challenges and with a double crop of rookies incoming, all organizations are likely to see significant changes to their rosters.

Ryan Ballantine is a lifelong Stamps fan and host of the Go Stamps Go Show Podcast. He has been covering the team since 2008.