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THE MOJ: Crunch time looms as Lions look to shape their final roster

Surprise cuts Monday might not be only changes club has in store as it attempts to get stronger
It’s crunch time in regards to roster decisions for Lions Head Coach Rick Campbell as training camp winds down. Steven Chang BC Lions photo

As the B.C. Lions get set to start the 2024 CFL season, one thing is for certain.

The team is committed to improving the run game on offense and also to stopping the run on defense.

The Lions made eight cuts on Monday, two days after losing their first exhibition game of the season 30-6 to the Calgary Stampeders in Cowtown.

There were a couple of surprises with Taquan ‘Smoke’ Mizzell – the team’s leading rusher last year with 773 yards – and quarterback Dakota Prukop being among the cuts.

“We’re making a commitment at running back, on the D-line and the O-line to be bigger than we were last year. That’s just purely a function of that,” said Lions Head Coach and co-general manager Rick Campbell when asked about Mizzell being let go.

Apparently Mizzell was told to gain some weight this off-season but instead showed up to camp lighter than last year. That, in combination with the performances in camp of rookies Percy Agyei-Obese and Jordan Terrell, made Mizzell expendable.

Prukop was a bit of a surprise as the Lions brought him in to run the third-down packages – an area of weakness last year with Dominique Davis – but decided to let him go as well.

Prukop is pretty much a one-dimensional quarterback and wouldn’t give the Lions much in terms of passing the ball and with sophomore Chase Brice showing improvement in Kamloops, the club decided to let him go as well.

“It’s really hard to release them when they’re good people and good guys,” said Campbell, who added that Vernon Adams Jr. will run the short-yardage package to start the year.

Meanwhile, the Lions announced the signing of free agent defensive lineman Demetrius Taylor on Tuesday.

Taylor had been in Kamloops for close to a week and actually travelled with the team to Calgary but was not able to participate as he awaited his contract to be approved by the CFL. Taylor was suspended by the NFL for violating the league’s gambling policy while a member of the Detroit Lions last season.

He was subsequently reinstated but the CFL still had to do their due diligence and contact the NFL head office to get information. That was delayed because of the Memorial Day long weekend in the U.S. which precluded the contract from being approved until Tuesday.

At 6-1 and 290 pounds, Taylor is versatile enough to play all across the defensive line. The signing, in conjunction with those of Christian Covington and Pete Robertson, shows how much emphasis is being placed on stopping the run this season.

Campbell and the coaching staff will get a good look at Taylor and everyone else Friday night when the Lions conclude their pre-season with a 7 p.m. game against the Edmonton Elks.

“We’re going to dress everybody that is medically available and we want to get everybody out there. We’ve got to make some pretty important decisions coming up,” said Campbell.

Campbell wouldn’t get into too much detail but there are quite a few decisions still to be made when it comes to the roster.

“I’m not going to name specific names, but we think that there’s a group of guys that are going to be challenging for roster spots, and then a smaller group of guys that might challenge for a starting role. So that’s good news. I think we’re going to have some tough decisions to make,” Campbell stated.

Some of the positional battles that continue are at left guard – where Nationals David Knevel and Andrew Peirson continue to compete along with Import Chris Schleuger.

There are also some openings at receiver with the departures of Lucky Whitehead and Dominique Rymes and Keon Hatcher being sidelined with an Achilles injury.

Alexander Hollins, Justin McInnis, Jevon Cottoy and Ayden Eberhardt will all start with Travis Fulgham trying to hold off Ed Lee, Devin Ravanel, Jalen Sample, Jeff Cotton and Stanley Berryhill for the last starting position.

The team is also trying to configure its secondary with starting halfback T.J. Lee sidelined for the first six games of the season due to his Achilles injury.

The only certainty is that all-star Garry Peters will start at boundary corner as defensive coordinator Ryan Phillips has been mixing and matching positions in Kamloops.

Marcus Sayles will occupy one halfback position but Phillips has used free agent signee Ciante Evans – a natural corner -at halfback during camp while national Adrian Greene has seen time at safety, corner and half. Also in the mix are nationals Patrice Rene and third-round draft pick Cristophe Beaulieu, while imports Jordan Perryman, Ronald Kent and Chris Cooper are also vying for playing time.

The most likely configuration will see Peters and Sayles on the boundary side, Greene at safety with Evans at wideside corner with Kent playing the wideside half.

As for what he wants to achieve against Edmonton, Campbell’s goal is to see his team compete and maintain their composure as he and his staff get set to make some difficult decisions.

“We want to execute and play good football. It’s a good thing for us if we end up having to turn away some pretty good players. Hopefully, that’s a good sign. So Friday night is going to be a big night,” he said.


The Lions announced that Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson will perform on Save-On-Foods Field at BC Place for Concert Kickoff on Saturday, June 15 when the Lions host the Calgary Stampeders in their home opener. “It’s an honour to give our great fans the opportunity to see a world class performer who resonates across multiple generations of music lovers.

Concert Kickoff has become a great tradition in Vancouver and 50 Cent is our best one yet,” said Lions’ owner Amar Doman in a prepared statement.

With the news release at 10AM on Monday, Campbell paused practice at 9:55 to bring the team together in Kamloops. He said Doman wanted the players to know before the general public and then announced the opening act by having a team employee play ‘In Da Club’ over the Hillside Stadium P.A.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

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