Edmonton Elks do some scrambling to prepare for the Redblacks on Saturday

Members of the Edmonton Elks on the Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium for training camp. Dave Campbell/630 CHED

Preparation for the first game of the regular season is always challenging. Throw in a 21-month gap against a team that went through an overhaul, and the the Edmonton Elks are facing a process that’s even more of a challenge.

The Edmonton Elks host the Ottawa Redblacks on The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night. Both teams have a new head coach, as well as new offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators.

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For the Elks, they have to look at film from when Paul LaPolice was the offensive coordinator of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Mike Benevides is the Redblacks defensive coordinator. The last time he was in the CFL was from 2016 to 2018 when he held the same role with Edmonton.

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Quarterback Trevor Harris says it makes the process of preparation very interesting.

“We’re doing specific things to attack their defence and we’re just going to do what we do because there’s a lot of stuff that changes over the last year and a half,” Harris said.

“Their coordinator hasn’t coordinated since 2018, so we’re prepared for a wide range of things. Just basically heading out there and trying to execute the best we can and do the best we can to prepare for Bene.”

Defensive back Aaron Grymes played under Benevides during his second stint with the green and gold. He also played with Redblacks starting quarterback Matt Nichols when was in Edmonton.

Read more: New head coach and new identity for the Edmonton Elks

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Grymes has played against Nichols plenty of plenty of times as well when Nichols was a member of the Blue Bombers under LaPolice’s direction. Grymes says it’s a system that he’s seen many times before, but questions how different the Redblacks offence will look under LaPolice as their head coach.

“We know the type of offence LaPolice likes to run, but that’s with a whole different group of guys. He’s going to be doing that with a whole new different team now,” Grymes said.

“Some of those things might not work or they might not look the same. We’re going to try and get a good idea of where he’s going to hit us, but after that we react on the sidelines, we’ll make some changes, and we expect to go out there and win the football game.”

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Schemes in the CFL are often duplicated, but the players who run those schemes are different with each team. So what’s more important to Elks head coach Jamie Elizando?

“I think they’re hand-in-hand,” Elizondo said. “You look at what somebody does schematically, but it’s usually tied to the strengths and weaknesses of those players. Why are they playing a certain coverage (on defence)? On offence, why are they in a certain formations? So I think it’s probably 50-50.

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You can hear the Edmonton Elks season and home opener on Saturday against the Ottawa Redblacks on 630 CHED, starting with an extended edition of Countdown to Kick-off at 6pm. The opening kickoff on The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium will be at 8 p.m.

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