SPORTS

A roundup of CFL teams ahead of the regular season

06/25/2012 02:22 EDT | Updated 08/25/2012 05:12 EDT
The 2012 CFL regular season kicks off Friday night. It's a historic campaign for the CFL that will culminate with the 100th Grey Cup being played in November at Toronto's Rogers Centre.

Here's a look at the league's eight teams, in alphabetical order, heading into the regular season:

WEST DIVISION

B.C. Lions: The defending league champions open the season with many of the same faces who were instrumental in B.C. winning the '11 Grey Cup, most notably MVP quarterback Travis Lulay, but have a different head coach. Defensive co-ordinator Mike Benevides replaces the legendary Wally Buono, who resigned as coach following the Grey Cup to become the club's full-time GM. The Lions will attempt to become the first repeat champions since the 2009-'10 Montreal Alouettes. Veteran slotback Geroy Simon enters the season needing just 67 yards to break Milt Stegall's all-time receiving yards record.

Calgary Stampeders: Quarterback Drew Tate and tailback Jon Cornish begin their first full seasons as starters after supplanting veteran performers last year. Cornish, a native of New Westminster, B.C., averaged a solid 7.3 yards per carry in 2011 and his play resulted in all-time rushing leader Joffrey Reynolds being released. Tate secured the starter's job later in the year, prompting the Stampeders to trade incumbent Henry Burris to Hamilton. Another significant change was the club releasing veteran receiver Ken-Yon Rambo, who was hampered during training camp by tendinitis in his Achilles tendon.

Edmonton Eskimos: Kavis Reed returns for a second season as Eskimos coach after an impressive rookie campaign, leading the squad to an 11-7 record that left it tied with B.C. and Calgary atop the West Division. Repeating that feat will be tougher considering Reed won't have proven veteran Ricky Ray at quarterback after Ray was dealt to Toronto in the off-season. Steven Jyles, obtained in the Ray deal, takes over under centre having bounced between five CFL teams since '06, with this being his second stint in Edmonton. Jyles has a tough act to follow considering Ray won two Grey Cups in nine seasons with the Eskimos and was a fan favourite.

Saskatchewan Roughriders: Corey Chamblin finally gets his chance to be the Riders' head coach after being a finalist for the job last year that ultimately went to Greg Marshall. Chamblin takes over a squad that posted a league-worst 5-13 record in 2011. After passing for a league-high 5,542 yards in 2010, quarterback Darian Durant slipped to 3,653 yards last year and won't have slotback Andy Fantuz, who left for Hamilton as a free agent. But reliable receivers Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf remain while centre Dom Picard and guard Brendon LaBatte signed as free agents. The club acquired rush end Odell Willis, whose 13 sacks with Winnipeg last year tied for the CFL lead.

EAST DIVISION

Hamilton Tiger-Cats: A busy off-season with hiring a new coach (George Cortez), landing Burris and Fantuz, Sam Giguere — the club's 2008 first-round pick who spent three seasons in the NFL — and tailback Martell Mallett. There is no shortage of weapons for Burris even with Mallett gone (season-ending Achilles injury) as 2011 rushing leader Avon Cobourne returns. Centre Marwan Hage missed pre-season recovering from knee surgery but expects to play. There are questions on defence up front and in the secondary while former Rider kicker Luca Congi has the difficult task of replacing reliable Justin Medlock (Carolina, NFL).

Montreal Alouettes: Re-tooling the defence was an off-season priority with the release of such veterans as defensive linemen Anwar Stewart and Eric Wilson, linebackers Diamond Ferri and Mark Restelli and safety Etienne Boulay. Defensive lineman John Bowman (12 sacks) returns but opens the season on the injured list. Chip Cox (78 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions) was a league all-star but a healthy Shea Emry at linebacker will also boost the unit. Anthony Calvillo, pro football's career passing leader, returns for a 19th season to anchor an offence that boasts last year's top receiver in Jamel Richardson and rushing leader in Brandon Whitaker.

Toronto Argonauts: The club hired a new head coach in Scott Milanovich but acquiring Ray was the biggest move of the CFL off-season. Ray won two Grey Cups in nine seasons with Edmonton but at age 32 should still have many good seasons left. Question remains, though, who will his No. 1 receiver be? Former Eskimo Jason Barnes signed as a free agent to solidify a unit that last year was led by special-teams dynamo Chad Owens and Canadian slotback Andre Durie. Respected co-ordinator Chris Jones takes over a defence minus safety Willie Pile (retired), tackle Claude Wroten (released) and defensive backs Lin-J Shell (released) and Byron Parker (B.C., free agent).

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Youth is being served in Swaggerville. Among the departed veterans include Willis, LaBatte, tailback Fred Reid (released), linebackers Clint Kent and Joe Lobendahn (both released), receiver Greg Carr (free agency), defensive linemen Donald Oramasionwu (free agency), Doug Brown (retired) and Dorian Smith (released) and centre Obby Khan (retired). Quarterback Buck Pierce returns while tailback Chris Garrett averaged a solid 6.3 yards per carry last year. Last year's stellar defence still boasts all-star defensive backs Jovon Johnson (CFL's top defensive player) and Jonathan Hefney.

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