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New head coach and new identity for the Edmonton Elks

After 20 months of not having CFL football, all nine teams have completed their 2021 training camps.

Camp opened on July 10 for the Edmonton Elks without pre-season games this time around, which made these three weeks a rather lengthy process.

The final roster cuts have been made as the team now will look forward to a couple of days off until they begin their preparations for the season-opener on Aug. 7 at home against the Ottawa Redblacks.

So what is the state of the Edmonton Elks after a grueling camp? First-year head coach Jamie Elizondo overall is pleased.

“We’re relatively healthy, we’re without a couple of key guys but I think — at least what we did looking back in taking care of the guys is paying off,” Elizondo said.

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“We’ll see where we are on Aug. 7 but you have some markers along the way in a normal season with the pre-season games to tell you if you’re on track, if you got to pull back, if you got to do more, we’re not that tough, or you’re not conditioned.

“You don’t have those markers this year so there will still be some adjusting after what we see on Aug. 7 but I’m really happy with the progress of this team.”

Read more: Edmonton Elks trim roster by 16; Diggs and Lemon among those released

Offensive lineman Matt O’Donnell has seen a lot during his nine years with the green and gold. With the departure of fullback Calvin McCarty, O’Donnell is now the longest-serving member of the team, dating back to 2012. He’s been on bad teams, championship teams, and seen head coaches come and go.

Jamie Elizondo is his fourth head coach as a member of the Elks. O’Donnell likes what he sees so far.

“He’s definitely the best players’ coach I’ve ever had in taking care of guys and giving us time off (during camp) to take care of our bodies and freshen up,” O’Donnell said.

“He’s only going to give you so many reps in practice, if you screw up that’s on you guys. It’s not up to the coaches to give you more reps to keep you out there longer. You had this many reps, you should know your playbook, you should be fresh because I’m giving you the time, and I expect you to perform and compete.

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“As a super-veteran, I really appreciate that.”

Audibles

Edmonton Elks quarterback Trevor Harris on how Jamie Elizondo is able to understand his players

Being a first-time head coach means Elizondo is learning on the job as he goes and says there’s a lot of similarities to being involved in a game.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is to be adaptable and flexible,” Elizondo said.

“That is what you have to do on game day and I tell players that football is really just a game about solving problems. We try to solve problems throughout the week as coaches.

“How are we going to handle that blitz? How we’re going to handle that route? How we’re going to stop that returner? In a game, all you’re trying to do is solve problems and players are trying to solve problems.”

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Read more: Edmonton Elks offence using final week of camp to iron out the kinks

As the Elks prepare to turn the page from training camp to the regular season, O’Donnell, who is well-experienced in knowing what the proper identity of a team should be, feels the current squad has a good one.

“We definitely have that passion, drive, and we are flying around out there with a lot of younger and faster guys,” O’Donnell said. “I think that year-and-a-half off football really re-ignited that spark in guys who say: ‘I really like football,’ but do you love football?”

Elks add quarterback

On Friday, the Edmonton Elks signed three-year CFL quarterback Dakota Prukop.

He spent the previous three seasons with the Toronto Argonauts seeing limited action, throwing for 284 career passing yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions.

Prukop recently attended the training camp of the Calgary Stampeders. The Elks have released quarterback Drew Anderson.

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