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Bonin prepping for first season at the helm of Sudbury Gladiators

One bonus, right out of the gate, is the return of quarterbacks Hunter Holub and Aaron Campbell to the fold, with the tandem having split game action almost 50/50 last summer.
Ben Favot, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student at St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School translated into the "next step,” recently signing a CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) Letter of Intent to join the Ottawa Gee Geesprogram come September. File photo.

One bonus, right out of the gate, is the return of quarterbacks Hunter Holub and Aaron Campbell to the fold, with the tandem having split game action almost 50/50 last summer. That said, it should surprise very few if one or the other steps forward to establish himself as the clear-cut number one in 2014.

The backfield, by committee, bears a striking resemblance to one year ago, with a glut of shifty, quick darting backs, but not a lot of "run right through a linebacker" size.

Expect to see Matt Glass, Thomas Rideout, Jacob Graham, Scott Friesen and Cam McDermid all get touches this year. If the Gladiators can take a step forward in one key area this year, it might well be the passing game.

The additional experience at QB combined with a nice array of weapons at slotback and wide receiver shows signs of potential, though the peak might still be a year away. Leading the pack will be big-play specialist Austin Kirkey, who came out of nowhere to score six touchdowns last year.

However, being able to spread the field with the likes of August Danyluk, Jon Landry, Devyn Chenier, Josh Walker and others should give Holub and Campbell some noteworthy targets — if the offensive line can provide just enough time to unload.

While there was some key turnover in the land of the hogs, the surprise return of Bauer Negrych after a full season of workouts with the Acadia Axemen was an unexpected bonus.

He will join returnees Brady Wallace and Alex Vendramin, and likely Eric Fraser, who could see time on both sides of the ball, along with newcomers Eric Greene and Charlie Lepage at the point of attack.

"I think that the best offence is the offence that takes what a defence gives them," explained Bonin. "And a defence has to give something. There is always a weakness to every defence."

Defensively for the Gladiators, Ty Houlahan was expected to make the move across the line, though an injury will sideline the Lasalle senior for the first four to six weeks.

With that in mind, it looks like a number of strapping young lads will have the chance to make a name for themselves on the defensive line, with Allan Campbell, Mathieu Cameron, Devin McCulloch, Tyler Kassinen and Fraser all likely to see action.

It's a somewhat similar story at linebacker, where Joe Jelen and Cameron MacDonald return to anchor a crew that might see some athletes flip between time on the linebacking corps and in the secondary.

Bonin continues to hold out faith that perhaps a couple of high school all-stars who are still sitting on the fence might well make their appearance with the team within the next week or two.

In the meantime, he will look to an athletically impressive collective of defensive backs to hold the fort in a pass-first, three-down league.

Veterans Brady Lavigne and Josiah Walt provide a pair of savvy cornerstones, with John Bronicheski, Miller Donnelly, Brandon Dumouchel, Josh Girolametto, Konnor Gillis and Jesse Brear providing hope that a game-changing pick-six is never that far away.

"On defence, it's just going to be a matter of being aggressive and knowing your assignments, playing with confidence and speed," said Bonin. "Football is about preparation. We look at giving ourselves a chance to win in week one.

"After that, in terms of long-term goals, let's look to make the playoffs." 

And that's about as daring as Reg Bonin is likely to be as he ushers the next era of Gladiators coaching.