KAMLOOPS — It wasn't a banner 2017 season for the B.C. Lions — far from it as the team missed the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.
But that has sparked changes. Ed Hervey is now the general manager and Wally Buono is exclusively the head coach. Hervey has signed eight players in free agency, including four from his former Edmonton Eskimos team.
"Obviously we feel like we're capable of winning the Grey Cup, but it's all about working hard. We have some good pieces. Ed has come in and done a great job in tweaking the roster," said Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian. "Bringing in the right group of guys to come in and compete and push everybody."
Something had to give after a tumultuous 7-11 season that saw the Lions collapse in the second half of the season after a 5-2 start.
"The Grey Cup, you don't win it in November, you win it now and it's building that team chemistry," noted Elimimian, who enters his ninth season with the Leos. "It's working out together. It's really buying into what the coaches are selling. I feel like we have the right group of guys."
The emphasis by Hervey has been on the offensive and defensive lines, the guys who help you win football games. Joel Figueroa was signed from Edmonton and Hervey re-signed three starters from last year, including tackle Antonio Johnson.
"Ed's been doing a great job getting people from free agency. We got a big time O-lineman Fig [Joel Figueroa]," noted Johnson. "The message right now in the offseason is be the most dominant team out there, and for the O-line to be the dominant O-line because we didn't accomplish what we wanted last year."
Johnson said his starting spot is not guaranteed with all the competition expected at training camp in Kamloops.
"I know the competition in training camp is going to be fierce," he said. "I have to earn my spot. There are no spots locked in. I have to earn my starting spot."
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