Bombers’ GM Kyle Walters promises ‘legit competition’ for kicker Marc Liegghio in training camp

Courtesy: Brett Holmes/CFL

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers plan to have plenty of kickers in training camp following the inconsistent performance of Marc Liegghio during last year’s playoff run.

The second-year Canadian held all three kicking roles in 2022, finishing the regular season 32-of-39 on field goals (82.1 percent) and 55-of-61 on converts (90.2 percent). He went three-for-three on field goals against B.C. in the West Final but missed two convert attempts in what was ultimately a one-score game. He missed another convert against the Toronto Argonauts in the Grey Cup, which ended up being a one-point loss.

“I get what the fans are thinking and kicker-punter-kickoff will be a competition. Marc’s under contract, the Global draft certainly has some punters, we’re evaluating American kickers, and we’re looking at guys with CFL experience,” general manager Kyle Walters told CJOB 680 on Monday.

“We’ll come to training camp and you’ll see more bodies kicking field goals, punting, kicking off this year than years past and it’ll be a legit competition like it is every year at most positions. But that is a focal point where we’ve said we certainly understand there needs to be some serious competition at that position and Marc understands that and he’s going to come in and compete and wants to win the job.”

Liegghio’s most memorable kick this past season came in the final minute of the Grey Cup when his 47-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Robbie Smith. He told reporters postgame that he believed the kick would have been good had it not been blocked. He had previously connected on a 45-yard field goal in the second quarter.

It was an up-and-down season for Liegghio, who made a 55-yard field goal in the dying minutes of the Labour Day Classic to secure a 20-18 victory. He also missed a potential 32-yard game-winning field goal against the Montreal Alouettes in Week 10 before missing a potential game-tying 37-yard attempt in overtime.

Fans in Winnipeg have evidently let the team know they expect more from the kicking position in 2023. Walters anticipated being asked about the kicking situation in Monday’s interview, calling it a “popular question” he’s had to answer this off-season.

The Blue Bombers had three kickers in training camp this past season in Liegghio, Ali Mourtada, and Global punter Tom Hackett. Mourtada spent the whole year on the practice roster and is no longer with the club, while Hackett, who was Winnipeg’s first-round pick in the 2022 CFL Global Draft, was added to the suspended list before the regular season got underway. According to the league’s transactions page, he remains suspended by the club despite not being listed on their website.

Liegghio won Winnipeg’s punting job out of training camp as a rookie in 2021 but fellow Canadian Tyler Crapigna initially handled the field goals. The veteran placekicker went three-for-five over the club’s first three regular season games before being added to the injured list and leaving the team.

Liegghio handled all the kicking duties for the next three games, making five-of-eight field goal attempts and missing three converts. He was replaced by American rookie Ali Mourtada, who made eight-for-15 field goal attempts over four games, the last of which came mere days after the club acquired Sergio Castillo in a trade from the B.C. Lions.

Castillo made 12-of-14 field goal attempts and eight-of-nine convert attempts from there, including a sensational performance in the Grey Cup in which he made all five of his field goal attempts. He left the club the following winter in free agency, signing with the Edmonton Elks.

Liegghio is entering the final year of his rookie contract, which will reportedly pay him between $75,000 and $80,000. The only other kicker currently on Winnipeg’s roster is Devin Anctil, an American who was recently added to the roster. Anctil was named Second Team All-Big 12 as a senior at Kansas State in 2019.