Great interview of Jim Barker for the up coming season


Friday, May 18, 2007 - 09:32AM

The opening of training camp 2007 is less than a month away, free agency has produced a number of changes, and the CFL draft has just been completed. At this point I thought this would be a great time to take a look at an interview I conducted back in January with Stampeder General Manager Jim Barker.

Enjoy reading the insight, and get ready because the 07 season is just around the corner!

Stan Peters: Before we begin I’d just like to quickly say thank you Jim for once again discussing with me some of the off-season dealings down at McMahon Stadium.

S.P. Why do you feel the 06 Stamps didn’t go further in the playoffs? Was it something specific or was it just one of those days in pro football where it isn’t your day?

Jim Barker: That’s a cop out to say it was just one of those days, the bottom line is we were not good enough. Whether it was because we weren’t consistent enough on offence, or we gave up to many big plays on defense, you can look at a lot of different things that went wrong but from my standpoint we just didn’t have enough good players to get to the Grey Cup. It’s not always the 24 “best players? that make the “best? starting line ups, it’s a group that can work together and feels that pull and trust amongst each other. That’s the part of personnel that’s probably the toughest, is to find that chemistry.

S.P. How has the Off-season been progressing?

J.B. Well we’ve had a few changes in our coaching staff. We brought in George Cortez to be our Associate Head Coach / Offensive Coordinator (Chuck McMann as Receiver Coach, and Kris Sweet as Offensive Line Coach have since been added). Personnel wise, one of the things we’ve done this off-season is we went and signed receiver Marc Boerigter. He will be 29 years old and probably in his prime, he did have knee surgery but it’s fully recovered, it went very well (it should be noted that since this interview was conducted the Stamps have added a number of other high quality & character players such as Ryan Thelwell & Bobby Singh).

S.P. What emphasis, as far as player personnel, have you been focusing on this off-season (both a skill, and a unit)?

J.B. We’ve been looking for some quarterbacks to come in and compete to play, not necessarily just to be satisfied to be a backup. Anytime you change coordinators you change the focus of your personnel, so I think you’ll see some ratio changes in terms of where we play all of our Canadians, and where we play Americans. My job is, and I’ve said this from day one, is to find players not that I think are good, but players that fit with what our coordinators want. I think probably our biggest focus in the off-season defensively is going to be at the front. We no longer have D-Max who has moved into Player Personnel, and we couldn’t come to an agreement with Rahim Abdullah. We’ll be signing quite a few guys, so we’ll be young and new on the defensive front.

S.P. How would you describe a George Cortez offence?

J.B. I think with George the biggest thing is utilizing match ups, he finds ways to create physical miss-matches, I think that’s his strength.

S.P. We are all excited about the signing of Marc Boerigter, what do you see him doing in this new offence?

J.B. I think he’ll be used both inside and outside, he’s a tall 6 ft. 4 in. I think you’ll find him matched up on whoever the short defensive backs are, or if he goes inside they will look to create some mismatches with him lined up on a linebacker. I just think you’ll see him moved around a lot.

S.P. Looking at how the team would be built in the off-season, did you look at it and say “we now are going to try and mold the team to beat the defending champs BC Lions?, or do you say “we’re going to build the best team we can, and try to have everybody adapt to us??

J.B. I don’t think you ever say, “we’re going to mold our squad to beat one specific team?, because that team is also going to continually undergo change. What we have to do is build the best club that we can build, and find the players that fit our system and make our system as good as it can possibly be. We have to provide the coaches the tools they need to make us as good as we can be, that’s the way you have to approach it.

S.P. Is this a strong year for the Canadian College Draft?

J.B. The top of the draft will provide some excellent players, but it’s probably not as deep as last year. In 06 you saw us pick RB Jon Cornish in the second round so that tells you how deep it was.

S.P. What is the likelihood of Jon Cornish playing for the Stamps this year?

J.B. We’ve been in contact with him, but ultimately it’s Jon’s decision. He’s definitely a neat young guy and Canada is somewhere he wants to play, he’s always dreamed of playing up here. He also allows you the possibility of changing the ratio.

Note – Cornish recently signed a contract with the Big Red.

S.P. What about a previous Stampeder draft choice linebacker Mike Labinjo?

J.B. He is currently on the roster of the Indianapolis Colts, when the time comes at some point, Mike Labinjo will play for the Stampeders.

S.P. What are your impressions of the 07 schedule?

J.B. I like it. I think anytime we start our season in mid June we could be asking for problems because schools are still in session, we’re better off from July on. Also, this year because the league had more time there wont be as many back-to-back games with the same opponent, those are very difficult. I think one reason for the lack of offensive productivity last year was because of the high number of back to backs.

S.P. I’m really excited to see a few of the new Stamps that were brought in late last year from our negotiation list. Can you give a quick scouting report on QB Barrick Nealy, DE Kerron Williams, and LB’s Matt Grootegoed, Shannon James, & Robert Rodriguez?

J.B. Barrick Nealy is on contract, we just got him signed the last couple weeks. He’s a Casey Printers type is what he is! He started at the University of Houston as a true freshman, he’s 6ft. 5in., tall, big, and he’s got great feet. The coaches were very impressed with him, they thought he had a very strong and accurate arm. He is a guy that physically looks like Casey Printers, I mean when you watch him play, its like watching Casey Printers play. Now will he have the same kind of success Casey Printers had? It’s hard to tell.

J.B. Keron Williams is an undersized defensive lineman, very similar to Demetrious Maxie. He’s very explosive, he played one game last year and wasn’t as productive as we would have liked. He’ll be a guy that we’ll take a good look at and hopefully Keron will come in a bit more mature, and understand a little bit more of what’s expected of him.

J.B. Robert Rodriguez is a guy the coaches really like. He’s a physical guy, he’s an excellent pass rusher, and he’s about 235 lbs. They just think he’s going to fit into what we do very, very, well!

J.B. Matt Grootegoed, is a guy that Pete Carroll (USC’s head coach) called the most instinctive player he’s ever coached. Grootegoed is a guy that you can just tell he’s a playmaker, he’s always around the ball and he just has a knack for the game. Now how that will translate up here we're going to find out, but we’re expecting him to come in and be a challenger for a starting position.

J.B. Shannon James is a player that was graded by the Baltimore Ravens as the number one play making guy in the country in terms of being around the football, whether that’s tackles, assisted-tackles, knockdowns, interceptions, whatever. He’s another guy who has a knack for finding the football, now if you get enough of those types of guys you’re going to have a very, very good defense. He was a safety in college, but we’ll probably move him out to play in the outside linebacker spot because he’s a good cover guy that can really close on a ball carrier.

As for the most current news with the Big Red, the Stamps made a HUGE splash in the 07 CFL Draft, basically Jim Barker, Tom Higgins and co. owned this draft! The Stamps had three potential studs selected in the first round with 6’7?, 307lb OT Mike Gyetvai, 6’4?, 224lb WR Jabari Arthur, and 6’3?, 236lb LB Justin Phillips.

Again, I’d just like to thank Jim Barker for his time, he once again shared some tremendous insight and knowledge with me into the Stampeders, and it is greatly appreciated.

Stan Peters