The ALSternative — 2017 Season Preview Part 5

The Montreal Alouettes have made some sweeping changes this past off-season. Most notably, they’ve had to go out and hire a special teams coach. The last gentleman to hold that title managed to get a new position in the organization.

For the past two seasons, Kavis Reed has been the guiding light for this branch of the Alouettes. And under him, they gained stability and became a more cohesive unit. But with him now assuming the role of general manager, the time came for a new field boss for the special teams unit.

After all, it usually doesn’t turn out so well when this football team’s general manager also performs coaching duties. So with that in mind, Kavis will stay in the front office while a new coach will join Jacques Chapdelaine‘s staff to oversee the Alouettes’ special teams unit.

And who would be tasked with that assignment, you ask? That would be none other than former NFL and NCAA special teams coach Bruce Read.

Read has spent the past 30 years in various coaching gigs, mostly at the NCAA level where the special teams play is a very similar style to what the CFL offers. Fellow coaches describe his style as well thought-out and prepared. A style that would be the furthest thing to describe Montreal’s special teams play in years past.

There are some reservations, though. His last coaching gig was at the University of Nebraska, where Read was let go after two seasons due to “numerous gaffes” on special teams. It should be noted however that Read was working with mostly freshman and sophomore players while with the Cornhuskers. Kids making mistakes is an inevitability as they learn this game. Sometimes as a coach, you simply have to play the hand that you’re dealt the best way possible.

But in football, you’re only as good as your last game so Read was dismissed with two regular season games to go in Nebraska’s 2016 season. It will be interesting to see just how well Read can adapt to the Canadian game after three decades of four-down football. The last time the Montreal Alouettes went with coaches that had no CFL experience, it wasn’t exactly the most fruitful experience (see Hawkins, Dan).

Nevertheless, Read will get a chance to redeem himself with Montreal. He won’t be dealing solely with college kids, but rather some experienced veterans that have excelled in this domain. This league is all about redemption; we’ll see if this veteran coach can reinvent himself in a new country.

Let’s take a look at the special teams for the Montreal Alouettes:

Kick/Punt Returner

As it has been for the past two seasons, there’s only one name that stands out on this extremely short list. Ever since he joined the Birds of Prey in 2015, Stefan Logan has been nothing short of phenomenal. Like Kyries Hebert all of a sudden not aging, it boggles the mind at how Logan can still be so incredibly fast on his feet despite being in the latter part of his 30’s. He may not take every kick back to the house like other returners do, but Logan is still an exciting player to watch and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.

Sooner or later though, someone is going to have to take over as the returner for this team. Many have suggested that 2017 CFL draft pick Denzel Radford could perhaps be Logan’s successor one day. He did return kicks last season for a very successful U of Calgary Dinos team that made it all the way to the Vanier Cup. Logan is not looking to slow down any, but it never hurts to have a backup plan. Radford could very well be that plan for the Alouettes.

Kicker/Punter

Last year was not the greatest professionally for current Alouettes kicker Boris Bede. After a solid rookie campaign, there was no competition for the Toulon, France native with the booming leg. His complacency led to plenty of missed field goals and lacklustre punts. Anyone who doubts the sophomore jinx need only look at the first half of Bede’s 2016 season. He was replaced by journeyman kicker Anthony Fera mid-season and many felt that Bede was only being retained because of his roots in Quebec.

But Boris snapped out of his funk and towards the end of the season, redeemed himself nicely. After being worked out by a number of NFL teams, the Alouettes decided that they were not going to throw out the baby with the bathwater like Winnipeg did with their rookie kicker Liram Hajrullahu. Bede was re-signed this past off-season and will look to continue his CFL career in Montreal.

He will now have some competition in camp as the Alouettes signed international kicker Carl Ojala to a contract. This young man has been playing with the hometown Vermont Bucks, an indoor football team that started play this spring. I think that some healthy competition will only bring out the best in Bede. And if Ojala can excel in an open-air environment, so much the better.

Long Snappers

Once again, only one name is on this list. They simply don’t come any more reliable than Martin Bedard. There was speculation that he was going to take one last stab at an NFL career once free agency rolled around. After all, talented long snappers don’t stay unemployed very long. But nothing came of the NFL workout and Bedard is back in the Alouettes’ nest, ready to do what he does best.

The Alouettes do have another long snapped in camp. Chad Bushley is currently partaking in the rookie camp. Not much is known about the young man and barring injury to Bedard, time will only tell if he’ll get any reps at this often-forgotten position.

Other Notables

This team has no lack of stars that shine the brightest on this part of the field. The two biggest for Montreal are Nicolas Boulay and Daryl Townsend. Both have been exceptional playmakers at the university level and both have made names for themselves as part of this special teams units.

Armed with brand-new contracts, both Boulay and Townsend will both be expected to lead by example once again. Always a mainstay on special teams, Jean-Samuel Blanc will also be looking to throw his muscle into the mix. Tyree Hollins came in late last season and made a respectable showing. If he can stay competitive, he too can find himself a part of this unit.

Maïko Zepeda was expected to be an immediate player for Montreal when he was drafted last season. But an injury in last year’s rookie camp derailed Zepeda’s 2016 campaign. I expect him to get a lot of reps here as he bounces back and earns a spot on this Alouettes squad.

Naturally, any number of Montreal’s draft picks that survive training camp will likely have to pay their dues by logging time on special teams. And that’s not a bad thing; better to be out there making plays than on the sidelines, waiting for something to happen.

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So that’s your look at special teams. Tomorrow, an overview of what you can expect overall from the Montreal Alouettes in 2017. Just two more sleeps and football is back, folks!

GO ALS GO!!!

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