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Ottawa Redblacks roll out 2020 coaching staff

Building a coaching staff came down to finding guys with plenty of football experience, but also high on Ottawa Redblacks head coach Paul LaPolice’s wish list was character, the ability to lead men.

LaPolice, the former Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach and offensive co-ordinator, was named the Redblacks head coach in early December, a bit more than a month after Rick Campbell quit and later signed with the B.C. Lions.

On Tuesday, in the Redblacks locker room, LaPolice (who will also be his team’s offensive co-ordinator) introduced his 2020 coaching staff: Defensive co-ordinator Mike Benevides, special teams co-ordinator Bob Dyce, Bob Wylie (offensive line), Steve Walsh (quarterbacks), Alex Suber (receivers), Charlie Eger (running backs), Greg Knox (defensive backs), Carey Bailey (defensive line), Chris Tormey (linebackers) and Patrick Bourgon (assistant defensive backs and special teams).

“We took our time hiring some of the coaches,” said LaPolice. “We didn’t just hire the first people who called, there were a lot of people who have CFL experience. There’s a lot of time, effort and stress making sure you have the right mix.”

The coaches have been in Ottawa for a week now. On the CFL calendar, there’s the CFL Combine March 26-28 in Toronto, there are the global and national drafts in April, then there’s the beginning of rookie camp May 13 before full camp opens May 17. It may seem like a long time away, but for coaches, it’s not.

“There’s a finite amount of time, camp will be here before you know it,” said LaPolice. “There’s time for bonding and building relationships, we have to be a cohesive unit and we have to bring that to the players.”

Five of the coaches under LaPolice have head coach experience at different levels (Dyce and Benevides have done it in the CFL). There are plenty of new faces, with Dyce and Bourgon holdovers from Campbell’s staff.

“Bob’s been a friend since 2002, our wives are friends,” said LaPolice. “Bringing him back was a priority for us. We were trying to sort out our staff and Patrick’s name came up from a number of people.”

There were options for Dyce, who was offered coaching opportunities elsewhere. But he decided he wanted to return to Ottawa for a fifth season.

“There was uncertainty when Rick decided to move on,” said Dyce. “One thing I say is my resumé is out on the field — if my guys play well, I should have someplace to go. I always say I’m going to do what’s best for my family. Plus, I have a great group of players I coach here, I love working with them.

“I’ve known Paul for a long time. He was my offensive co-ordinator my first year in the CFL, he was the offensive co-ordinator in 2002 when I guest coached with Winnipeg. We’ve been good friends since then and had never had an opportunity to work together since. You weigh out all the positives and the negatives. I love Ottawa — there are a lot of great people and it’s been a successful organization, last year was a blip. This was the best place for me to be. I’m excited. I’m hoping to bring my wife (Amanda) and youngest daughter (Ava) here.”

Benevides is another longtime LaPolice friend and coach who’s also been a CFL on TSN panelist.

“This is kind of in the DNA,” said Benevides. “It’s what I love, it’s what I’ve done for 20 years. At the core, I’m a teacher and I love the challenge that comes with that. I loved doing TSN, but a coach is what I am. (Being on TV) is hard at times because you want that competition, at game time you get that itch that you want to be in the game. It was a great experience to learn and grow, it really was.

“I see a lot of things here that I’m excited about. I understand what Paul is trying to establish, I understand the challenge at hand. And I really couldn’t be happier.”

Benevides, whose coaching career got off the ground as a defensive assistant in 2000 in Calgary, got his shot as the head coach in B.C. — from 2012-14, with the team putting together a 33-21 record. For three seasons (2016-18), he was the Edmonton Eskimos defensive co-ordinator with other responsibilities sprinkled in. Through the many years as a coach, he’s learned and adapted.

Knox comes to the Redblacks via the University of Alberta Golden Bears, where he was the team’s defensive co-ordinator last season. A former defensive co-ordinator, then head coach of the McMaster Marauders, Knox was a defensive backs coach with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2015. As a player, he won a Vanier Cup (with Wilfrid Laurier) and two Grey Cups with the Stampeders.

“I was in a situation I was enjoying with the University of Alberta,” said Knox. “But you also have to ask yourself, am I going to move my family out there? Ontario’s home, I’m from Peterborough, I’ve got a cottage on Stony Lake. My family’s here and that’s important to me. You look at the situation and what the options are, this was one of those situations I didn’t want to pass up.”

Wylie is one of those moustachioed larger-than-life characters, who gained plenty of notoriety for his screen time in HBO’s Hard Knocks NFL Films series in 2018 when he was the offensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns. He has decades of experience at the college and professional football levels in the U.S. and Canada, working for six Division I schools, two CFL teams and eight NFL organizations.

“I get excited to coach football, regardless of what level it’s at,” said Wylie. “Wherever I am, I still get that tingling feeling where you get goosebumps and you get excited when you get on the field. I liken it to kissing your first girlfriend and you get that excitement going.”

Wylie has worked with LaPolice twice — in Saskatchewan and Winnipeg.

“(LaPolice) is a helluva football coach,” said Wylie. “I know his system so I don’t have to go in and learn a new system.”


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