The ALSternative — 2015 Season Preview (Part 1 of 4)

alsSP2015N.B.: There’s a LOT of ground to cover so I am breaking up this season preview into four parts, this column being Part 1. Tune in tomorrow, Friday and Saturday for the remaining parts as we lead into Sunday’s first official day of training camp. Enjoy!

 

Is it June yet?

Is it June yet?

Is it June yet?

Is it June yet?

From the final gun sounding on the 102nd Grey Cup last November until this coming Sunday, those four words will have been uttered many, many times by Canadian football fans. Like Chinese water torture, this incessant question/hashtag has littered the World Wide Web every single day. Over and over….

Is it June yet? Is it June yet? IS IT JUNE YET?

Ladies and gentleman, I’m beyond thrilled to report that the wait is finally over. Starting this Sunday, the 2015 Canadian Football League season is getting underway and not a moment too soon!

Last year, the Montreal Alouettes came within one game of reaching the Grey Cup, falling short yet again to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Eastern Final. This year, the Birds of Prey will look to build upon that unforgettable 2014 season and finally return to the promised land, as they prepare to compete for the 103rd Grey Cup.

Here’s a recap of what’s transpired for Montreal since that chilly November day at Tim Hortons Field and what you can look forward to this coming Sunday as the Alouettes prepare to open training camp at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville.

AC: Alouettes Coach?

The 2014 season was the first full season without the legendary Anthony Calvillo behind centre. Injuries ended his storied career and now the team had to find a way to live without #13 as their quarterback. After taking the summer to himself, AC vowed that he would still remain a vital part of this Alouettes organization. And on Dec.15, Calvillo was named as a coach for this team.

After being given the brief title of “offensive coach”, Calvillo was officially named as the new receivers coach for the 2015 season. He’s not the first former Alouette quarterback to hold that title, as former backup QB Marcus Brady was made receivers coach for Montreal upon his retirement. He excelled in that position and managed to turn that into an offensive co-ordinator job for the Toronto Argonauts.

A lot of folks were stunned that AC was not immediately given the Alouettes’ OC job. But asking a man who has never coached before to design and lead an offensive attack is a surefire recipe for failure. It’s best to let Anthony get his coaching feet wet and work with some quality receivers before taking on such a mighty task. But having AC back on the sidelines, even as a coach, will surely be a welcome sight for Alouettes Nation.

2015 Coaches: There has to be consequences

Tom Higgins took over as head coach in 2014 and wound up being a finalist for CFL Coach of the Year. And while he deserves a ton of credit for righting the ship, one area that needed help was special teams. Last year, Higgins decided to handle that department in addition to his head coaching duties. As last year’s Eastern Final proved, this area desperately needed a coach of its own going forward.

After this blogger and several others pleaded for the Alouettes to hire a special teams coach, Higgins did exactly that and on January 19th, a name CFL fans know very well was introduced as the new ST Coach for the Montreal Alouettes: Kavis Reed.

Reed is infamous in the CFL for two specific incidents; his falling on the sword for the 2009 Grey Cup’s “13th man” penalty and his post-game meltdown as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos that went viral. But lost in those moments is what Reed will bring to the Alouettes; a metric ton of experience in special teams, something that was sorely lacking in recent years for Montreal.

Kavis is a player’s coach; his boys have always run through a wall for him and the Als will be no exception. He has coached his special teams players well and Kavis is a man who will extract the most out of special team studs like Andrew Lue, Daryl Townsend and Nicolas Boulay. With new CFL rules in 2015 with regards to kick returns, I have my doubts that Higgins would have been able to manage this area of the game effectively all by himself.

Other changes with the coaching staff in 2015 sees last year’s receivers coach Turk Schonert now as the full-time offensive co-ordinator/QB coach, Ryan Dinwiddie (last year’s OC) re-assigned as the running backs’ coach and Chris Tormey has been hired as linebackers’ coach to replace Greg Quick, who will now be the defensive co-ordinator in Saskatchewan. This is now the second time in as many years that an Alouettes’ linebackers coach has been hired as a DC elsewhere, as the Ottawa RedBlacks hired Mark Nelson away from the Alouettes in 2014.

Former QB Coach Jeff Garcia will now be working with the St. Louis Rams of the NFL. Not retaining Garcia’s services was a mistake in my opinion as it was his work with the young quarterbacks that really helped turn the Alouettes’ 2014 season around. But with ex-QBs Schonert, Dinwiddie and Calvillo on board, surely good things will come as this offense looks to return to its former glory.

Free Agent Frenzy!!

Last year’s Alouettes roster ended up being a pretty good one, as certain names fell by the wayside and new stars emerged. Most notable was an unknown named Jonathan Crompton, who took over the QB reins midway in 2014 and never looked back. Over the next two days, I’ll expand more in detail the additions and subtractions of the Alouettes roster, but suffice to say that General Manager Jim Popp was not afraid to make some big moves in order to give this team the winning edge.

Most notable are the additions of Samuel Giguere, Nik Lewis, Stefan Logan, Dan Lefevour and Khalif Mitchell. And sadly leaving the nest are Duron Carter, Kenny Stafford, Larry Taylor and Ryan Bomben. The Alouettes also cleaned up pretty good at the 2015 CFL draft, adding some depth and potential long-term projects for this coaching staff.

A New Home for the ALSternative

As you well know by now, this blog has found itself as part of a new initiative for Canadian football coverage on the Internet. When I was approached by 3 Down Nation to be a part of something special, I felt I owed it to you good readers to come join this talented team of writers in order to properly represent the Alouettes fan base. I’ve always strived to be that voice for the fans that is sorely lacking in the online CFL landscape. Imagine my joy to find out that I wasn’t as alone as I thought!

There is a tremendous wealth of talent here, all spearheaded by long-time CFL scribe Drew Edwards of the Hamilton Spectator. We’ve only been all together officially for a few weeks, but the impact has already been felt online. And not only am I excited to bring you Alouettes coverage like never before, but this group of writers will change the way you look at the Canadian Football League online.

So if you haven’t already, bookmark this web site today!

Not Done Yet

Over the next few days, be sure to return for a more in-depth look at this Alouettes team as they prepare for the 2015 season. I’ll be breaking down the offense, defense, special teams and also what you the fans can expect as this season gets underway.

It all starts this Sunday on the grounds of Bishop’s University. Be sure to follow along here at 3 Down Nation and on Twitter as all nine CFL teams prepare for a seven month journey that culminates in Winnipeg with a late November battle for the Grey Cup.

I’m ready to take flight with the Birds of Prey and hope that you’ll come along for the ride! So for the first time officially this season but certainly not the last,

GO ALS GO!!!

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