While his stint playing at the Edmonton Eskimos’ rookie camp is over, the lessons Curtis Dell took from his week working with CFL coaches and players will only help the Golden Bears this fall.
The University of Alberta quarterback was invited to play at the Eskimos’ rookie camp by Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed. The experience allowed Dell to receive feedback from CFL coaches as well as from both veterans and younger players fighting for a spot on the team.
While going against Edmonton’s first string defence and learning the Eskimos’ style of offence, it was the atmosphere of the camp that made an impression on Dell.
“The coaches here are really players’ coaches. They’re phenomenal — they’re easy to get along with and pretty relaxed, but there’s really a work hard, play hard atmosphere here,” Dell explained.
“They have their time for fun and everything, but when it’s time to work, it’s time to get going. When you’re in university, you’re with the same coach for two, three, five years, so it’s good to get a fresh mind to get instructions from.”
Jeff Stead, Dell’s head coach at the U of A is also excited about what Dell will bring back to his team. With the higher level of play his quarterback faces going up against Edmonton’s defence and the new perspectives and opinions he’ll receive from CFL coaches as opposed to the staff he’s used to working with. Stead sees the potential in the knowledge Dell can bring back to the Golden Bears.
“I’ve always found with athletes going there and coming back is they get different points of view of coaching,” Stead said.
“It gives (Dell) a different angle in terms of his learning style. The other thing is it’s a faster game there. That’s going to give (Dell) an opportunity to play at a different tempo, which is going to be great because now he gets back to us and hopefully the game slows down for him in his own mind.”
Stead thought Dell looked like he belonged, playing on the field with the quarterbacks who were trying to win a spot on the Eskimos’ final roster, many of whom have far more experience than the university quarterback. According to Stead, experience is the only intangible lacking from Dell’s game.as a CIS player practicing with CFL professionals.
“Take the numbers off the jersey, take the names off the roster, take off where they went to school — just watch the pro and their footwork and you’re asking what school (Dell) went to,” Stead said.
“What I mean by that is you think of quarterbacks in the CFL and NCAA when you see (Dell) ... The difference is he hasn’t played in front of 60,000 people. He hasn’t played a game worth millions of dollars, but he’s a pretty darn good quarterback.”
Dell looks to improve his game further to help the Golden Bears recover from their winless 0-8 season in 2011. Throughout the off-season, he’s worked on his footwork and speed, as well as his size and strength to prepare for the coming year. The professional opposition he faced in the Eskimo training camp assisted his progress in this training, and in Dell’s mind, his improvements will bring the entire team closer to reaching the level of excellence they hope to achieve this year.
“Especially on offence with the receivers running routes and timing ... the speed here is a significant increase from the university level,” Dell said.
“I can’t bring the speed back, but I can bring the idea, the philosophy behind the speed, depth of routes back to our receivers. If we can work on that, it makes me one step closer, them one step closer and our whole team one step closer to being where we want.”
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