SPORTS

Former CFL star linebacker Kevin Eiben anxious for CIS coaching opportunity

07/08/2013 05:49 EDT | Updated 09/07/2013 05:12 EDT
Kevin Eiben is back in football.

The retired linebacker isn't making a CFL comeback. Rather, the three-time league all-star and '04 Grey Cup champion is the McMaster Marauders' new defensive co-ordinator and plans to take the same approach to coaching that he had as a player.

"I'm hoping these kids can feed off my energy," the 33-year-old native of Delta, B.C., said Monday. "I'm very passionate about football and I'll need players on the field that love playing the game the way I did, sideline to sideline, aggressive, always wanting to be around the ball.

"My defence is going to put these players in position to make sure they get opportunities to make plays . . . I've learned from some of the best coaches out there so I have the knowledge, I have the base, I can study film, I can find trends in any kind of offence I'm competing against and I know how to attack weaknesses. I know how to prepare teams to play but at the same time I want them to be ready to play with the heart and passion I so dearly love."

And that's something McMaster head coach Stefan Ptasek is looking forward to seeing.

"It's going to be a neat blend because there's a guy who's going to roll up his sleeves and step into a drill and do it better than my student-athletes can do it currently," Ptasek said. "He's going to have the room but I think it'll help him keep the room because he's not going to ask anybody to do anything he hasn't done one million times and isn't still willing to do every day."

Eiben replaces former CFL safety Greg Knox, who left in May to join the University of Toronto's staff.

Following his college career at Bucknell, Eiben spent 12 seasons in the CFL with Toronto (2001-11) and Hamilton (2012) before retiring in March. He immediately joined the Tiger-Cats front office as the co-ordinator of premium seat marketing for the new Hamilton stadium scheduled to open next year.

McMaster won the 2011 Vanier Cup and reached last year's title game before losing to Laval. Eiben also joins a veteran Marauders defensive staff as defensive backs coach Mark Forsyth, linebackers coaches Frank Gesztesi and Tom Pain and defensive-line coach Carm Genovese all have deep roots at the school.

"There's such a solid base of human beings and characters and coaches in this room . . . that putting in place something to complement those great men isn't as risky as you might think," Ptasek said. "Kevin's 12 years of CFL experience and all the different things he's been exposed to and the co-ordinators and concepts allow us to continue to do philosophically what we like to do.

"We like to look at our student-athletes and design stuff that complements their unique skillset and personalities and I think that's one of the reasons why we've been successful and continue to evolve and develop our defence to suit our current student-athletes' needs. That's something Kevin is very capable of doing."

When he retired, Eiben envisioned one day becoming a coach but was drawn more to the challenge of his present position. Now, he has the best of both worlds.

"I think I've made the best transition possible," Eiben said. "I get a chance to still be a part of the business side of it with the new stadium launch while also being a defensive co-ordinator with one of the best programs in Canada.

"I've definitely made the transition (from player to retired player) as I see these guys (Ticats players) walking in here after a long, hard-fought battle and to be honest I don't miss getting out of bed feeling sore.''

Eiben isn't sure if he'll follow in the footsteps of several CFL players — including former Argos teammates Orlondo Steinauer and Mike O'Shea — into the pro coaching ranks. Steinauer is currently Hamilton's defensive co-ordinator while O'Shea is in his fourth season as Toronto's special-teams co-ordinator.

"I'm going to play it by ear," he said. "I'm going to see how it goes with the younger ages because this is where you get these guys ready for the next level.

"The guys in the CFL have already made it . . . whereas at this stage these guys are still hungry to put in the work, get to the next level and be recognized. That's what I like to feed off, guys who want to continue to get better day in and day out.''

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SLOW START: It's been a less than auspicious start for Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo.

In two games against Winnipeg, pro football's all-time passing leader has completed 36-of-63 passes (57.1 per cent) for 385 yards with two TDs. But the Bombers intercepted him three times and sacked Calvillo a league-high 11 times.

Calvillo threw for 264 yards and a TD in Montreal's season-opening 38-33 road win over Winnipeg but the Bombers held Calvillo to 121 passing yards while sacking him seven times and registering two interceptions in a 19-11 win at Molson Stadium on Thursday.

And things don't get any better this week. Up next for Montreal is a home game Friday night against Calgary. Stampeders defensive lineman Charleston Hughes is tied for the CFL sacks lead with three so far.

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OWNER UNHAPPY: Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young wasn't overly impressed with his team's 30-20 rain-soaked home loss to the Edmonton Eskimos on Sunday.

On Sunday night, Young tweeted: "This years #Ticats too good a team to play that badly. Very disappointing for loyal and very soaked Ticat fans to witness.''

It was Hamilton's first regular-season game at Alumni Stadium in Guelph, Ont., the club's temporary home this year while a new facility is being built where venerable Ivor Wynne Stadium once stood.

There was much optimism surrounding the Ticats prior to the start of the season. After missing the CFL playoffs in 2011 with a 6-12 record, the club lured Kent Austin back to Canada from Cornell University, making Austin Hamilton's head coach, GM and director of football operations.

The loss to Edmonton left the Ticats at 0-2 heading into a home game Saturday against Winnipeg.

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WEEK 2 MUSINGS: Home-field advantage hasn't counted for much early this season.

Home clubs are just .500 so far, having won four of the eight games played. The Saskatchewan Roughriders are the league's lone unbeaten team at 2-0 while the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are the only winless club.

There was plenty of scoring Week 1 — 257 from the four opening contests, an average of over 69 points per game — compared to 177 points last weekend, or an average of 44.25 points.

Seven of the eight teams scored 30 or more points the opening week of action but only two did so last weekend.

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