The ALSternative — 2018 Season Preview Part 5

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: The Alouettes are a great team with a lot of talent, but their special teams are just awful. But they hired *INSERT NAME HERE* as coach, things HAVE to get better!

You’ve heard this story numerous times because I’ve had to write it numerous times. No matter what this team does in order to improve this area of the field, nothing ever seems to stick. The one ST coach they’ve had that has had any measure of success ended up being promoted to general manager!

The latest coach to try his hand in this domain does come with a decent pedigree. Mickey Donovan is a known name in this city, formerly the head coach of the Concordia Stingers. Being able to compete yealy in a conference that has the Laval Rouge et Or and the Montreal Carabins is no small feat.

Hopefully with this new hire, this area will improve. I know, I know….lather, rinse, repeat. Let’s take a look at the special teams for the Montreal Alouettes:

Kick/Punt Returner

For the first time in a long while, there may be someone who could possibly unseat the ageless Stefan Logan as the returner for the Alouettes. That would be no small feat, as Logan still manages to defy Father Time year after year.

But it still bears repeating that Logan is not a young man anymore and eventually, he will be caught. In fact, there were many instances last season that Logan appeared to slow down just a little bit on returns. But Logan still managed to rack up over 2000 all-purpose yards on returns, so writing him off still may be a touch premature.

So who could join him or maybe even replace him? If I were a betting man, I’d say put your money on T.J. Graham. A late re-add to the roster last season, his speed is ridiculous and the potential to break is there for the taking. If not for a penalty on a touchdown return, perhaps Montreal would not have been shut out versus Hamilton during that final game of 2017.

If anyone is going to unseat Stefan Logan as returner, it will be the speedster from North Carolina State. Others may also try returning kicks, like B.J. Cunningham and Chris Williams (who did so quite well in previous CFL stops). But Logan/Graham is a one-two punch that has the potential to put points on the board.

 

Kicker/Punter

 

For the first time in what seems like ages, there appears to be a competition at training camp for this position. Since 2015, Boris Bede has been the defacto kicker/punter for the Alouettes, only losing playing time due to injury. His leg certainly has been powerful enough to keep the ball nice and deep. In a season where the Alouettes had trouble scoring points, Bede was fairly consistent with a 82.9% scoring percentage, only missing 6 of his 35 field goal attempts. Naturally, he will be given every chance to retain his job.

But in order to stoke his competitive fire, the Alouettes have brought in some new legs to camp. Quinn Van Gylswyk and Zackary Medeiros are both National kickers that have not had much playing time. While I don’t see either one of them unseating Bede, it would benefit the Alouettes to have a National kicker in order to further tinker with the ratio in their favour. Similar to when Sean Whyte was with the Alouettes.

Long Snappers

For years, there was only one name on this list. Martin Bedard. Mind you, it was and still remains a very good name to have on the list. Marty has been a master at this position for many years and showing no signs of slowing down. But he will also be given some competition this season.

Returning to the Alouettes is Emmett Tims, the Alouettes’ sixth round draft pick in 2016. After a solid university career at the University of Saskatchewan, Tims is ready to get his professional football career under way. Long snapper is a position you don’t think about until your starter goes down. Having a pair of quality snappers on this team will make life a little bit easier for the rookie coordinator.

 

Other Notables

 

The leader on special teams is Quebec-born dynamo Nicolas Boulay. Entering his fifth season with the Alouettes, he will still bring the fire and lead the charge on game day. Expect to see other Quebecers like Jean-Samuel Blanc and Oumar Touré also be featured as well, bringing both speed and power to help create lanes for the returners.

A lot of Montreal’s special teamers from last year have moved on, so this year’s camp will eventually reveal their successors. As per usual, 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 concludes your look at the 2018 Montreal Alouettes. Already some parts of this blog are outdated thanks to news of releases. After paying out off-season bonuses to them, the team has released Tevaughn Campbell, Shaquille Murray-Lawrence and Jovon Olafioye.

So what can you expect from this team this season? Who the hell knows.

Every year, I do my best to feature the players that bust their hump day in and day out in hopes of playing in a Grey Cup game. But that hasn’t been a realistic expectation for a number of years now.

Watching a team you support post a record of 3-15 is about as low as one can go when it comes to fan support. The fact that fans are still buying season tickets is a true testament to the dedication that they have for this organization. So when the team rewards this fan base with “opportunities” to buy Budweiser at $7 a pop on game day, one can’t help but feel like they are constantly being slapped in the face.

I will always support this team. But I can’t in good conscience consider myself just a fan anymore. I expect my support to be rewarded with wins and as long as this team can do that, others will follow suit. So the Alouettes can have all the game day promotions that they want. They can smartly re-do the schedule to lower the number of home Thursday games to just one. They can even move training camp back to Montreal to hopefully have a better attendance.

But all these moves won’t be worth a hill of beans if this team doesn’t win games. Nobody in the league is giving the Alouettes any hope whatsoever. With no confirmed starting quarterback and a head coach with no CFL experience, who could blame them? People will look at the defending Grey Cup champions, who were dead last in 2016 and had no head coach or general manager until February, as an example of how you shouldn’t count ANYONE out in the CFL.

This is true, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a recipe to be followed or a blueprint to aspire to. There is a lot to be excited about in 2018 and the potential is there for the Montreal Alouettes. The past two drafts have been decent for re-stocking Canadian talent and with some new coaches that have a brain in their heads, the possibility to build a solid foundation is there without question.

I typically don’t do predictions, but I feel very confident in saying that the Alouettes will post a record of 7-11 and miss the playoffs yet again. As crazy as it sounds, I would be perfectly all right with that scenario. Provided that there is tangible proof that a real foundation for long-term success was being laid down by this team.

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Football is back for another year. That alone should be enough to get you excited. The Alouettes are also holding camp in Montreal itself, so the excuse of training camp being too far away is no longer a valid excuse to not check out training camp.

Camp will be held at the field between Olympic Stadium and Saputo Stadium, easily accessible by taking the STM metro to Viau Station. Practices are 100% open to the public. For more information, be sure to consult the training camp schedule.

Be sure to stay tuned to The ALSternative for your training camp news, thoughts and so much more. Don’t forget to check out the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast to hear myself and Tim Capper discuss all things Alouettes as well.

No matter what, here’s hoping for a good season of Canadian football.

GO ALS GO!!!

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