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BOMBSHELLS: Bombers players looking forward to seeing what Grey Cup hero Collaros can do in full season

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Willie Jefferson knows a thing or two about CFL quarterbacks, having been in their faces for the better part of the last six seasons.

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Even when it comes to his own teammates, he watches the quarterbacks closely, gets a sense for their talents, their mindsets, their movements in and out of the pocket.

He has been watching Zach Collaros for a while now, having played with him for two seasons in Saskatchewan and for four games during the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Grey Cup run in 2019.

What he sees is a man who instills confidence in his teammates.

“I kind of know who Zach is, what Zach brings to the table with his expertise at quarterback,” Jefferson said Wednesday, a day ahead of the Bombers’ CFL season-opener against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at IG Field.

“But just coming into camp this year and seeing the way Zach came into camp, like body wise, he looked totally different than he did leaving. He looked a lot healthier. He was moving a lot more, moving around a lot more and he’s just looking active. So, I was very impressed with the way Zach came to camp and the way he moved through camp and the way he’s looking now in Week 1.

“So, it’s gonna be amazing. It’s gonna be fun to see him strike it up tomorrow.”

Collaros, signed to a contract extension after getting traded to the Bombers in October of 2019, is heading into his first full season in Blue and Gold. Or at least he hopes it will be a full season.

With his lengthy history of injuries, including concussions, there are some that doubt he can play all 14 games of this shortened CFL season for the Bombers.

But if he can, there’s a good chance he’ll put up impressive numbers. He’s feeling healthy and he’s very comfortable in a Blue Bombers’ system that he embraced so quickly in 2019.

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DEPTH SHINING THROUGH

The Bombers have always prided themselves on organizational depth during the Mike O’Shea coaching era, and they’re going to need to lean on it early in the season.

With running back Andrew Harris (calf), receiver Darvin Adams (shoulder) and weak-side linebacker Kyrie Wilson (thigh) out for Week 1, projected backups Brady Oliveira (RB), Charles Nelson (WR) and Jontrell Rocquemore (LB) will start against Hamilton.

“We had a lot of depth last year and we have it this year,” Bombers middle linebacker Adam Bighill said. “You want all the guys that would be in your lineup Day 1, on the field, but in professional football that generally isn’t always how it works. We always know it’s next man up and it’s opportunity time. We focus on making all the guys better in our organization and everybody is expected to perform at the same level, whether you are No. 1, 2 or 3, it doesn’t matter. The guys are ready for opportunities.”

WILLIE GOOD TO GO

Jefferson missed practice on Tuesday with an ankle injury, but proclaimed himself good to go on Wednesday.

“I’m feeling wonderful,” he said. “I’m great. Running around, you know, playing with the guys. So, just ready for (Thursday).”

READY FOR THE ROCQUE

One of the aforementioned playing opportunities will go to Rocquemore, who comes to the Bombers from Utah State University and earned a job in training camp.

Bighill likes what he sees from the player who will play next to him in the linebacking corps Thursday.

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“Rocque, he’s a great athlete and he’s very sharp,” Bighill said. “For a young guy, he can process information very well, he diagnoses the playbook very well, he asks very good questions. I think his process is really good with how he diagnoses plays using his eyes, looking at the right things. That’s an important thing against a team like Hamilton that’s gonna give you a lot of misdirection and really play with your eyes. He’s a guy that can flash and make some plays and really surprise some people.”

PRAISE FOR NEW GUYS

Oliveira and Nelson both drew praise from Collaros, for how they looked in training camp and that might explain why Bombers coach Mike O’Shea is giving them starting spots in the lineup.

“Brady’s had a great training camp,” Collaros said. “He’s been getting a lot of reps since the first day. I’m really excited for him for the opportunity that he’s getting.

“Charles has come on really well this week too. I’ve been really impressed with his grasp of the playbook. He’s been here for a while so he’s done a really good job of understanding our concepts and what he needs to do to read the secondary.”

Collaros admits he was very comfortable with Harris and Adams in the lineup and there will be an adjustment period with these changes.

“Even though it’s been a small sample size, having a guy like Darvin, a guy like Andrew, guys with lots of CFL experience, experience in this offence, it definitely brings a calm to the huddle when it comes to the quarterback position.

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“So it’ll be different but I’m really excited for (Oliveira and Nelson) and they’ve had great training camps.”

TWO-KICKER SYSTEM

After several weeks of competition for kicking jobs, both rookie Marc Liegghio and veteran Tyler Crapigna will play on Thursday.

Liegghio will handle punts and kickoffs, while Crapigna handles field goals and converts.

QUOTABLE

“If I want to sleep, I’m gonna be trying not to think about football. The players, you want them to close their eyes and visualize great plays and atmosphere and all that stuff so they can get through that. As a coach, I think I’m gonna be trying to see the inside of my eyelids.” — O’Shea on what he’ll be thinking about on the night before the first game of the season.

QUOTABLE II

“I try to get my mind off it. My wife gets mad at me sometimes. I don’t want to talk about practice. I don’t want to talk about who’s playing, who’s not playing, just let’s watch a show that’s a mindless show and relax.” — Collaros on what he does during the day before a game

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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