Buono installs new Lions coaching staff

 

Only two positions unchanged from last year

 
 
 
 
B.C. Lions head coach Wally Buono, centre, introduces his coaching staff to the media on Tuesday.
 

B.C. Lions head coach Wally Buono, centre, introduces his coaching staff to the media on Tuesday.

Photograph by: Ric Ernst, PNG

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At 37, Adam Blasetti finally has his foot in the door.

The youngest member of the B.C. Lions 2015 staff gets his first opportunity to work with professional football players as a full-time coach, the job of coordinating running backs he inherited from Chuck McMann, one of Wally Buono’s longtime assistants who retired at the end of last season.

But with Canadian Football League free agency less than a week away, Blasetti has no idea if feature back Andrew Harris will still be in the Lions’ stable — or gone for greener pastures and more money than the Lions are willing to pay him.

“Having spent so much time coaching in junior football (with the Calgary Colts), I know of Andrew’s background in junior football (with the Vancouver Island Raiders) and I’ve followed his career very closely,” says Blasetti who coached the offensive line with the Simon Fraser Clan in 2015. “It’ll be great if I get the chance to coach him. I have no idea at the moment if he’ll still be here by this time next week, or what’s happening with him. I’ll leave it to the guy who gets paid a lot more money than I do.”

GM Wally Buono, back as head coach of the Lions for the first time since 2011, has his entire coaching staff in place now. Blasetti and other new hires were officially introduced at a news conference Tuesday in the team’s locker-room.

Defensive coordinator Mark Washington and defensive line coach Robin Ross are the only holdovers returning to last year’s positions. Khari Jones has been promoted from receivers coach to offensive coordinator while Dan Dorazio is back after a one-year stint with the Saskatchewan Roughriders as offensive line coach. He replaces Doug Malone, who has moved on to become the offensive coordinator at Western Illinois. Marcel Bellefeuille, let go as offensive coordinator of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, takes over as the receivers coach, Marcello Simmons is the special teams coordinator and Chris Tormey takes over from Johnny Holland as linebackers coach. Holland, who expressed a desire to look for NFL opportunities at the end of last season, was hired Monday by the Cleveland Browns and will coach the inside linebackers on the staff of new head coach Hue Jackson.

Once the introductions and pleasantries were done, Buono waded into the inevitable questions about Harris, the Lions’ most notable pending free agent along with quarterback Travis Lulay.

The return of Lulay sounds promising. Harris is more problematic.

“I think the critical thing is trying to build your football team so you have the most flexibility — and the most options,” Buono said.

“It’s never a fine science. But you have to build your team with the ratio in mind, if there’s an injury. That’s obviously going to have an effect going forward. I think the critical thing is trying to build your football team so you have the most flexibility.”

Interpretation: import backs are easier to find than Canadian running backs, especially backup.

Harris, who turns 29 in April, is likely to be in colours other than orange and black when training camp starts.

Buono sounded more optimistic and less inscrutable when discussing Lulay, whose future in B.C. was cast in some doubt with the emergence of rookie Jonathon Jennings as the team’s starter last season.

“From the club’s perspective, we definitely want Travis back,” Buono said. “Every indication I get is he wants to be back.”

Matt Norman, who started all 18 regular-season games at centre for the Lions in 2014, is also listed among the team’s pending free agents, though he is effectively retired.

Norman went through three knee procedures last season, complicated by a serious infection, and never did get on the field.

mbeamish@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/sixbeamers

 
 
 
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B.C. Lions head coach Wally Buono, centre, introduces his coaching staff to the media on Tuesday.
 

B.C. Lions head coach Wally Buono, centre, introduces his coaching staff to the media on Tuesday.

Photograph by: Ric Ernst, PNG

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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