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THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO — It was a wild and crazy CFL Canadian college draft.
A total of six trades involving 15 picks and four roster players were made Sunday, including three in the first round alone. And the emphasis certainly was on offence with six of the first eight players taken being on that side of the ball, including a stretch that saw four straight receivers selected.
“Yeah, it didn’t allow you to take a nap or anything like that,” Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Joe Mack said with a chuckle. “It seemed like things were going pretty helter skelter the whole time, which I think made it exciting for the fans also to see everyone was willing to be aggressive to try and improve their team through the draft.”
Edmonton’s Eric Tillman was the busiest GM, making separate deals with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders.
A total of 47 players were selected over the six rounds. Calgary forfeited its third-round pick (22nd overall) after choosing Washington State receiver Johnny Forzani in last year’s supplemental draft.
The proceedings went pretty much as expected early, with Winnipeg kicking things off by taking St. Francis Xavier linebacker Henoc Muamba first overall. The move wasn’t a surprise as the Blue Bombers had flown Muamba in so they could unveil Canadian university football’s top defensive player last year in the Manitoba capital.
“Being drafted is the first step,” Muamba said. “But the real work begins now … proving to the coaches and Mr. Mack and the rest of the organization that I was worthy of the No. 1 pick.”
Tillman took Rice offensive lineman Scott Mitchell with the second pick. Again, the move wasn’t unexpected considering the six-foot-five, 295-pound Mitchell, a Montreal native who grew up in Ottawa, was the top-ranked draft prospect.
Mitchell played left tackle in college but performed well at centre and guard at the CFL’s evaluation camp.
Then things got interesting.
The Stampeders moved up to No. 3 in a trade with the B.C. Lions to take Calgary Dinos receiver Anthony Parker. The six-foot-two, 215-pound Parker struggled mightily in Calgary’s 29-2 Vanier Cup loss to Laval but bounced back with a stellar showing at the evaluation camp.
Winnipeg had its second selection of the round at No. 4 and raised eyebrows by taking Saskatchewan Huskies receiver Jade Etienne. The six-foot-three, 175-pound Etienne wasn’t regarded as a top-4 selection coming in to Sunday.
Mack almost contributed to the first-round mayhem, admitting he had some enticing trade offers for fourth selection. But he decided against them because he wasn’t sure he’d be able to land Etienne later on.
“When Jade was there we thought he had great potential,” Mack said. “When we looked further down the line we were concerned about not being able to get him so we decided to make the pick.”
Tillman slid into the No. 5 spot with his second deal of the day, sending the 10th and 13th overall picks to Hamilton for the fifth selection and the rights to import offensive lineman Zipp Duncan. He then selected two-time All-Canadian Nathan Coehoorn, the Calgary Dinos’ heralded six-foot-two, 220-pound receiver.
B.C., at No. 6, continued the receiver trend by taking Harvard’s Marco Iannuzzi, a six-foot, 180-pound Calgary native. Iannuzzi leaves as the school’s second-leading receiver and career leader in kickoff returns, averaging 34.5 yards a crack and is the only player in Harvard history to register two kickoff return TDs in a season.
Toronto moved into the first round by sending the 12th and 27th picks to Saskatchewan for the Roughriders’ No. 7 spot. But Argos head coach and GM Jim Barker, who led the CFL club back into the playoffs last season, looked to the future by taking Ottawa native Tyler Holmes, a six-foot-four, 305-pound offensive lineman who is returning to Tulsa this fall and expected to garner NFL interest next season.
Grey Cup-champion Montreal made a bizarre selection to end the round. Despite acquiring veteran kicker Sean Whyte from B.C. before the draft for a 2012 first-round draft pick, the Alouettes went ahead and took kicker-punter Brody McKnight of Montana. What’s more, McKnight is returning to school this fall.
Montreal has decided against re-signing veteran Damon Duval, a free agent who spent six seasons with the team.
“He was No. 1 on our board,” GM Jim Popp said of McKnight during a conference call. “He has an extremely strong leg and he’s a great athlete.
“There was no way we could pass him up.”
The intrigue certainly didn’t stop there.
Hamilton GM Bob O’Billovich’s first draft selection came in the second spot of the second round (10th overall) and he used it on Moe Petrus, an offensive lineman returning to Connecticut this fall. O’Billovich’s decision to deal down, then go with a future selection was surprising given the Ticats have registered consecutive 9-9 seasons and lost in the opening round of the playoffs both times.
Then B.C., even with veteran kicker kicker Paul McCallum in tow, took Alberta punter-kicker Hugh O’Neill, an Edmonton native who was a four-time Canada West all-star. This wouldn’t be the first time the Lions went with two Canadian kicker, but the biggest coup was securing another first-round pick in a 2012 draft that’s projected to be a very deep one for a player in Whyte who signed with the club as a 2007 territorial exemption.
Hec Crighton Trophy winner Brad Sinopoli will head to a CFL training camp for the second straight year. Calgary selected the Ottawa Gee Gees quarterback in the fourth round, 29th overall, and he’ll be allowed to develop under the guidance of Hufnagel, a former CFL quarterback, and veteran Henry Burris, the league’s outstanding player last season.
Sinopoli spent time in Hamilton’s camp in 2010.
With two straight championships under his belt, Popp had the luxury of being able to look to the future in the later rounds.
He took Baylor offensive lineman Philip Blake with the last pick of the third round, despite Blake returning to school this fall. He’s expected to garner plenty of NFL interest. Then to end the fifth round, Popp selected defensive lineman Vaughn Martin, who is currently with the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.