Calgary Stampeder quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell has a familiar target at training camp. Older brother Cory is among the receivers invited to try out for the defending Grey Cup champions.
Between their back yard in Katy, Texas, and a season as teammates at Eastern Washington, the Mitchell brothers guess Bo Levi has thrown the football to Cory about a thousand times in their lives.
They didn’t add to that estimate in the first session of main camp Sunday as the siblings were working in different groups. Cory hopes their familiarity with each other helps launch his pro career.
“I think knowing his little tendencies and the way the ball comes out of his hand . . . with new quarterbacks, you’re not sure how the ball comes out,” the slotback said. “With him, it’s natural.”
The 27-year-old completed his college career in December shortly after Bo Levi quarterbacked the Stampeders to a Grey Cup victory. Cory participated in an April free-agent camp in Florida and earned an invite to Calgary’s camp.
“He can run all day long,” Stampeder head coach John Hufnagel said. “Great hands. A very intelligent young man.
“I think he’ll be a guy, that if he did survive cuts, that would be able to plug and play, meaning that if we needed an ’x’ receiver, he’d know the assignments. If we need a ’z’ receiver, he knows those assignments.”
Bo Levi and Cory combined on 19 passes for 310 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2011 in their one season as Eagles teammates. Bo Levi joined the Stampeders the following season.
Cory had 70 receptions for 1,041 yards and five touchdowns at Eastern Washington. He played eight games in 2014 because of a collarbone injury.
The brothers are almost identical in stature — both six foot two and about 195 pounds. Bo Levi, 25, wants his brother to make the team, but also doesn’t want to be accused of familial favouritism.
“It is tough only because I’m still his brother, I still love the guy and I want him to succeed,” the quarterback said. “On the field, I’m a quarterback and he’s my receiver.
“I’ve told him I haven’t promised him anything. I told him ’you’re not going to get any help just because I’m the quarterback. It’s not going to help you make the team. You’re another guy here trying to be a professional, trying to make a football team.’ It’s going to be tough because we have a very deep receiving corps.”’
The Mitchells are one of the storylines at Stampeder camp this year. While Calgary has men at almost every position who played in the Grey Cup game, there are personnel issues to be addressed, particularly on the offensive line.
Pierre Lavertu, the first overall pick in last year’s college draft, has big cleats to fill at centre with the departure of Brett Jones for the NFL’s New York Giants. Jones was the CFL’s offensive player of the year in 2014.
Stanley Bryant signing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers forced shuffling along the offensive line. The oft-injured Edwin Harrison is slated to start at tackle with the versatile Spencer Wilson expected to fill in when needed.
“The problem with Edwin has been to stay healthy, but I know he’s chomping at the bit to take advantage of getting back on the field as a full-time starter,” Hufnagel said. “We won a lot of games with Edwin, both as our left tackle and as a guard when it was needed.
“One thing about our offensive line, I believe the majority of them are versatile and can play numerous positions.”
Calgary’s sack-leader Shawn Lemon signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers left a vacancy at defensive end. Newcomer Brandon Boudreaux is expected to compete with Freddie Bishop and Frank Beltre for a starting job.
The Stampeders also hope defensive end Charleston Hughes regains his form of 2013 when he was the CFL’s West Division finalist for defensive player of the year. Hughes was limited to one half of the division final after he injured his foot Sept. 13.
Calgary’s pre-season games are June 12 at home against the B.C. Lions and June 19 on the road versus the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The first regular-season game June 26 at McMahon Stadium is a Grey Cup rematch against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.