CFL

B.C. Lions

Division: WestGM: Wally BuonoHead Coach: Mike Benevides
2012: 13-5 (1st in West)vs. division 6-4
Points26.6 (4th)
Yards388.5 (1st)
Pass Yards278.1 (4th)
Rush Yards124.9 (1st)

New look Lions use playoff loss as motivation

Armed and Ready

Travis Lulay is ready to put last season's disappointment behind him and get back to winning.

Everything was rolling along according to plan for the BC Lions in 2012.

As the defending Grey Cup champions, the Lions cruised to a CFL-best 13-5 record, earning a bye and home field advantage for the Western Final.

Then it all went wrong. The Calgary Stampeders scored a touchdown on the second play from scrimmage in the West Final and held on to shock the defending champions 34-29 ending the Lions dreams of a repeat.

The loss still stings and has the Lions hungry heading into 2013.

"As a group and personally, I think we can grow a lot from what we experienced a year ago," quarterback Travis Lulay told reporters during the pre-season. "I don't think (this year) is about avenging a loss or making amends for what happened in the West Final. I think it's about taking the lessons from a year ago, knowing what we did to get us to 13-5, but finding a way to overcome that stumble we had in the playoffs."

Winds of change

After the Lions were knocked out of the playoffs, GM Wally Buono went back to the drawing board and spent the off-season revamping the team's roster.

Veteran players like receiver Arland Bruce III and corner Byron Parker were released. Others like defensive tackle/headache Khalif Mitchell (to the Argos) and backup QB Mike Reilly (to the Eskimos) were traded away.

The biggest loss by far, at least in terms of player stature, was slotback Geroy Simon who had spent 12 of his 14 CFL seasons with the Lions. The league's all-time receiving yards leader was traded to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Jan. 24 in exchange for receiver Justin Harper and a 2014 third-round draft pick.

The 37-year-old Simon missed five games due to hamstring problems in 2012 but still picked up 54 catches for 700 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first time in 10 years that Simon failed to reach the 1,000 yard plateau and the Lions clearly felt that Simon's best days were past.

"For us, 2013 is a time of change," Buono said during a pre-season conference call. "The change, obviously when you consider the fact we traded Geroy Simon, is a significant thing.

"He's a class act and we're going to miss him but at the end of the day my job is to make sure we field the most competitive team. The off-season has been very very very busy but I think it has been very very positive."

In terms of positives, many of the Lions cornerstone players like starting QB Travis Lulay, linebacker Solomon Elimimian and offensive linemen Jovan Olafioye and Ben Archibald were signed to new deals as was defensive back Lin-J Shell.

The team also brought back a familiar face in Emmanuel Arceneaux to help fill the void left by Simon and Bruce and solidify a deep Lions receiving corps.

The 25-year-old Arceneaux is back with the Lions after spending the last two seasons in the NFL. Prior to heading south, Arceneaux was a breakout star for the Lions in 2009 and 2010 piling up 130 catches for 1,972 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first two CFL seasons.

Non-imports Shawn Gore, Marco Iannuzzi and Akeem Foster have all shown they can produce at the CFL level, while 2013 draft pick Junior Seydou Haidara has impressed during his first pro camp. Add in imports like Nick More, Courtney Taylor and Ernest Jackson and Lulay should have plenty of options in the passing game.

Lulay, who threw for 4,231 yards with 27 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions last season, is entrenched as the BC starter and quickly establishing himself as one of the top pivots in the Canadian Football League.

Lulay also knows he can count on terrific protection from one of the best offensive lines in the league. The Lions front five allowed a CFL-low 30 sacks last season after allowing just 29 in 2011, also best in the league.

Canadian running back Andrew Harris will also be counting on that line to open holes for him in the running game. Harris notched his first 1,000 yard season in 2012 running for 1,112 yards and 7 touchdowns along the ground while adding 718 yards and four more touchdowns receiving.

The Lions love to get Harris the ball in space and will continue to use his excellent pass catching abilities this year. It's a longshot, but Harris is one of very few players that has the potential to run and catch for 1,000 yards.

Analysis: The Lions will have to wait on their first and third picks in this year's draft as both Hunter Steward and Bo Lokombo both have remaining NCAA eligibility. One pick who is in camp and making an impact is receiver Juniuor Seydou Haidara who has turned heads in his first pro camp with great hands and crisp route-running. The Lions other four picks from this year's draft were also in camp battling for roster spots. Kirby Fabien, the 7th overall selection last season also joined the team this season after surprising the Lions by returning to the University of Calgary last season.

Rd. Pick Player Pos School
2 6th overall Hunter Steward OL Liberty (Va.)
2 12th overall Junior Seydou Haidara WR Laval
3 21st overall Bo Lokombo LB Oregon
4 33rd overall Matt McGarva DB Windsor
4 42nd overall Matthew Albright OL Saint Mary's
6 50th overall Matt Walker DB UBC
7 58th overall Cameron Thorn DL Guelph

Rugged defence drives the ship

The offence may get the headlines, but the Lions defence is a formidable unit in its own right.

Heavy Hitter

Solomon Elimimian leads one of the hardest hitting defences in the CFL.

The Lions had the top ranked defence in the CFL last season, allowing just 19.7 points per game and leading the league in virtually every meaningful category.

Linebackers Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill will anchor the Lions defence this season and ensure that it remains one of the most hard hitting unites in the league.

Along with veteran Anton McKenzie the Lions linebackers also give defensive coordinator Rich Stubler plenty of options to mix up his schemes and keep opposing offences guessing.

"They're going to be extremely dynamic and used in multiple ways," head coach Mike Benevides said. "It's going to be really, really great for us to have that."

The secondary in B.C. will be nearly as rugged as the linebackers again this season as well with the return of veteran defensive backs Dante Marsh, Lin-J Shell and Korey Banks. Veteran J.R. LaRose meanwhile could slide in at safety to replace the departed Cauchy Muamba.

CFL All-Star Keron Williams who led the CFL with 12 sacks last season is also back with the Lions to anchor the defensive line.

02
The Lions look to reclaim their status as the Best in the West.

Extra Points

Paul McCallum, the CFL's oldest palyer at 43, is still the Lions No.1 kicker but he has some competition this year from a pair of kids 20 years his junior. 23-year-olds Hugh O'Neill and Steven Shott are both in contention to earn a second kicker spot as the Lions look for McCallum to take on a reduced role this year.

McCallum, who is entering his 21st CFL season, made 44 of 52 field goals last season after connecting on 50 of 53 in 2011. But punts and kickoffs add are hard on his leg and the team does not want that to affect his success rate on field goals.

Another veteran that is grooming his successor in B.C. is longtime centre Angus Reid. The 13-year CFL veteran has taken second year pro Matt Norman under his wing, teaching him how to anchor an offensive line at the pro level.

"I've played a lot of football in my life. I love this team. I want to help it win a championship, but I understand that my days are near the end," Reid said. "I always thought my responsibility - or anyone's responsibility, (if) you have a job for a long enough time, is to transition the next person in, and help with that."

DEPTH CHARTS

OFFENCE

DEFENCE

LT

Archibald
Fischer

LG

Kabongo

C

Norman
Reid
Albright

RG

Fabien
Valli

RT

Olafioye
Ossai

WR1

Arceneaux
Jackson

SB1

Moore
Williams

SB2

Taylor
Akpla
Haidara

WR2

Iannuzzi
Tomusiak

QB

Lulay
DeMarco
Elliott
Hart

RB

Harris
Brown
Sofele

SB3

Gore
Foster
Jackson

Special Teams: P/K (McCallum, O'Neill, Shott) LS (Cronk, Bighill, Jones, Norman)

Depth Chart is for pre-season game against Edmonton (6/21)

Expert Analysis
Chris Schultz: Lions will be motivated by falling short last year

The best team in CFL football last year was the Toronto Argonauts. They defeated the Calgary Stampeders to win the Grey Cup. But the team that played the best for the longest was the BC Lions. What the Lions accomplished in the regular season last year was remarkable.

Matt Dunigan: Lulay's great; but rest of QBs lack experience

The B.C. Lions are celebrating their 60th year in the CFL in 2013 and without question their franchise player is QB Travis Lulay. He's exactly what you look for in a leader and professional athlete as a whole. So with all that said, you would think all is well in the BC quarterbacking world. Nope, not really.

WK AGAINST DATE WK AGAINST DATE
1 @ June 28, 10pm et/7pm pt 11 @ Sep 7, 4pm et/1pm pt
2 vs July 4, 10pm et/7pm pt 12 vs Sep 15, 4:30pm et/1:30pm pt
3 @ July 13, 9:30pm et/6:30pm pt 13 @ Sep 22, 4:30pm et/1:30pm pt
4 vs July 20, 10pm et/7pm pt 14 @ Sep 27, 8pm et/5pm pt
5 @ July 30, 7:30pm et/4:30pm pt 15 vs Oct 4, 10pm et/7pm pt
6 vs Aug 5, 7pm et/4pm pt 16 @ Oct 11, 9pm et/6pm pt
7 BYE WEEK 17 @ Oct 19, 7pm et/4pm pt
8 vs Aug 17, 9pm et/6pm pt 18 vs Oct 25, 10pm et/7pm pt
9 @ Aug 22, 7:30pm et/4:30pm pt 19 vs Nov 1, 10pm et/7pm pt
10 vs Aug 30, 10pm et/7pm pt  

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