The Ottawa Redblacks continue to put pieces in place ahead of their CFL debut this coming season, and Friday's announcement of the team's assistant coaching staff marks a major step along that path. New head coach Rick Campbell has gone with an interesting mix of assistants, tabbing long-time CFL veterans Mike Gibson and Mark Nelson as offensive and defensive coordinators respectively and adding a long-time NCAA veteran in special teams coordinator Don Yanowsky, but also bringing in guys more known for their playing careers in Marcus Crandell (quarterbacks coach), Travis Moore (receivers coach) and Ike Charlton (defensive backs coach). Will that blend work out for the Redblacks, or will tweaks be needed?
The key announcements here are the picks of Gibson, Nelson and Yanowsky, and each has plenty of factors in their favour. After a substantial NCAA career, Gibson's spent the last 11 years in the CFL with Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, Hamilton and Calgary, and he's been an offensive coordinator in both Hamilton and Winnipeg. Nelson's a 26-year coaching veteran who played in the league and coached in it with Edmonton, San Antonio and Toronto before a U.S. college stint from 1997-2008, then returned to the CFL with Winnipeg in 2009, went to Edmonton in 2010, worked there until 2012 and spent the last year as the Alouettes' linebackers coach. He has a bit of experience as a CFL DC from his time in Edmonton and Winnipeg in this last go-round, and he won Grey Cups as a CFL coach in Edmonton (1993) and Toronto (1996). Yanowsky is newer to the CFL, coming to the league as Calgary's linebackers coach in 2012, but he has 10 years of experience as a special teams coordinator in the NCAA, and he's worked with some notable programs, including LSU, Memphis and Boston College. None of the three has a ton of experience as a CFL coordinator, but they all have promising coaching backgrounds.
The picks of Crandell, Moore and Charlton may prove more risky, as none have a ton of coaching experience. All had long and impressive playing careers, with Crandell playing in the CFL, NFL Europe and the XFL from 1997-2008, Moore starring as a top CFL receiver (plus spending one season in the XFL) from 1996-2005, and Charlton suiting up in the NFL and CFL from 2000-2010. Their coaching experience isn't as substantial, though. Crandell was an offensive assistant in Saskatchewan during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, then went to Edmonton as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, but lost his OC title midway through the 2012 season and has been out of the CFL since. Moore has the most experience of the three, coaching running backs in Hamilton in 2009, receivers in B.C. from 2010-2012 and receivers in Edmonton last year. This is Charlton's first full CFL coaching gig after 2012 and 2013 training-camp stints as a guest coach. All have the potential to be solid CFL coaches, but Crandell and Charlton in particular still have a lot to prove.
This could be a blend that works out well for Ottawa, though. Campbell has plenty of experience as an assistant himself, especially on defence and special teams, and Nelson, Gibson and Yanofsky all bring impressive backgrounds to the table. Nelson and Gibson should be experienced hands that Campbell can lean on if necessary. Meanwhile, Moore's a solid pick at receivers coach, and while Crandell and Charlton are less proven in the coaching ranks, they each had promising playing careers and have shown promising signs as coaches. We'll see how this mix works out for the Redblacks, but it's certainly not a bad way to start.