TORONTO — The time off was nice, but Corey Chamblin is happy being back where he belongs.
Chamblin is in his first season as the Toronto Argonauts’ defensive co-ordinator, secondary coach and assistant head coach under new head man Marc Trestman. The 39-year-old from Birmingham, Ala., is coaching again after being fired as the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach in 2015.
“It was refreshing to spend time with my family … but they were ready for me to move forward in coaching,” Chamblin said. “That’s what I am, a coach.
“I love the atmosphere, I love the players and the things coach (Trestman) has done but I’m a coach and I have the opportunity to coach a very good defence.”
Chamblin led Saskatchewan to a Grey Cup title on home soil in 2013 and was named the CFL’s top coach that season. But the former Tennessee Tech defensive back is returning to his roots with Toronto.
Before becoming a head coach, Chamblin served as either a defensive backs coach or defensive co-ordinator with the Frankfurt Galaxy (NFL Europe) and CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Calgary Stampeders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. As a player, he spent time with six NFL teams.
“We’ve got a guy who’s not just led a defence but led an entire franchise and I think that just makes us better to have that kind of experience,” Trestman said of Chamblin. “He’s a Grey Cup-winning head coach and that’s something you just can’t put enough value on.
“He’s a great communicator, he’s an enthusiastic leader. No doubt about it, I’m very excited to have him with us.”
Chamblin faces revamping a Toronto defence that had issues in 2016. The Argos were last overall in points allowed (31.6 per game), touchdowns allowed (59), rushing yards (115.2 per game) and passes completed (70.9 per cent) en route to finishing last in the East Division with a 5-13 record.
Toronto’s defence will feature a host of new faces. Defensive linemen Shawn Lemon and Ken Bishop, linebacker Marshall McFadden, Canadian safety Matt Black and defensive backs Marcus Alford and Aaron Berry are the lone holdovers in camp from the unit that took the field in the Argos’ season-ending 41-17 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos.
Toronto bolstered its defensive line by adding former Alouette Alan-Michael Cash and re-signing Edmonton native Cleyon Laing, a former Argo who earned a Grey Cup ring last year with Ottawa. The club also signed Montreal linebacker Winston Venable as a free agent but Venable abruptly retired Wednesday.
Venable’s departure could hasten Toronto’s pursuit of free-agent linebacker Bear Woods, the East Division’s top defensive player last season who was released this week by Montreal.
While Chamblin continues to evaluate talent during training camp, he knows how he wants his defence to play in 2017.
“We just want to be aggressive,” he said. ”We want to make sure we’re sound, that we’re a smart football team and fast.
“As far as the scheme, it’s ever-evolving … but we want make sure we’re fast.”
Chamblin wouldn’t discount becoming a head coach again but said that’s not something he’s actively pursuing now.
“I can tell you right now I’m enjoying this role … I don’t look to tomorrow,” he said. “I’m not looking at next year or the year after that.
“If the opportunity comes, it’s because someone presented it to me. But I wake up every day thinking about how to get these guys in position to be better players than they were the day before.”