MEET YOUR COACHES: Wylie gone, Arndt returns as Ottawa Redblacks announce 2022 staff

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The Ottawa Redblacks officially announced their 2022 coaching staff on Thursday — with the addition of at least one household name to RNation, and fewer others.

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With the departure of quarterbacks coach Steve Walsh, former Redblacks quarterback Will Arndt was hired. Veteran offensive line coach Bob Wylie, who turns 71 next month, will not return. Paul Charbonneau, originally from Orléans and who worked in the CFL for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Montreal Alouettes, will take over.

Receivers coach Alex Suber returns. He was not involved in field activities from early October 2021 after apparently not being vaccinated. He worked with the team and its receivers from home. Asked about Suber’s absence last year, Redblacks coach Paul LaPolice said: “His doctor advised him not to follow OSEG policies.”

The entire defensive coaching staff – coordinator Mike Benevides, Patrick Bourgon (linebackers), Carey Bailey (defensive line) and Greg Know (defensive backs) – is back. Bob Dyce, special teams coordinator, is also back. The team is still looking for candidates to become running backs coach, replacing Charlie Eger, who was fired at the end of last season after making what the team considered ‘insensitive comments’ towards French-speaking players.

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Walsh left for Minnesota to become a head coach at Cretin-Derham Hall, a private Catholic school in Saint Paul, where he was an All-American in the mid-1980s.

“(Walsh) wanted to be with his family,” said LaPolice, who is returning for his second season as Redblacks head coach. “Being away from his wife and son was getting difficult. It’s hard. It looked like he wanted to go home no matter what. He was moving to Minnesota, then he found out there was a vacancy in high school. It was a perfect setup for him. We were sad to lose him, but I understand that – when you have family members who aren’t in the same city. It’s a shame, but that’s business. “

Arndt was a quarterback with the Redblacks 2017-19 and then with the BC Lions. He joined the Edmonton Elks as an assistant coach last season.

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“I know Will more than him playing in the league,” LaPolice said. “I coached at Western Connecticut State University, where he played. His head coach – Joe Loth – is one of my best friends in the business. Will was in a super system. Then he played here in Canada. He trains quarterbacks off-season. I’ve heard a lot of good things about him, all my research shows he’s exceptional. It will be an excellent complement. He has experience as a CFL quarterback, he has experience in multiple systems. I think our players will really appreciate it. Joe stood on a table for him, said he was a character guy and all that.

Asked about Suber’s return, LaPolice said, “He made the best of his situation. The players responded to him very well. They loved working with him. “

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It would be reasonable to expect that all coaches or players would be required to be fully vaccinated before the Reds and Blacks begin training camp.

It was a tough decision for the Redblacks to leave longtime legendary NFL coach Wylie after one season.

“We just went a little younger there,” LaPolice said. “It’s not the way the O line has played, there are a lot of other things. Bob was Paul Charbonneau’s mentor. Paul helped in 2009 in Saskatchewan, he was a guest coach for several years. He was an offensive assistant in Winnipeg. He became the running backs coach, then the O line coach in Montreal. Montreal players talked so much about him. Marty Costello, the O line coach I worked with in Winnipeg, speaks well of it. He’s a guy who knows our system. He knows the protections, he knows the terminology of the run game. We shouldn’t miss a beat. He will be the young Wylie, the disciple of Wyls.

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Look for the Redblacks to whittle down their roster in the coming days with free agency, which begins Feb. 8, fast approaching. The team will need to improve in several positions, including offensive line, receiver and quarterback. Veteran offensive lineman Jacob Ruby was signed earlier this week.

“Obviously last year we didn’t do as much in free agency and some of the guys we had money with didn’t play for us,” LaPolice said. “We have the ability to watch more free agents. In some areas we need more veterans. Some of our struggles (last year) came from our youth in some places. The team has won three (each of) the past two years. We have to see where we can increase our talent level. Part of our off-season work is how do we put them in a position to be more successful? In terms of football, we cannot be last in the league in terms of turnover margin. And we have to be more productive offensively. There are a lot of things we need to improve.

“We expect to win the football game every week. We have to do what good football teams do – get takeaways, don’t return the ball, put points on the board. I don’t want to stay here in as a head coach and blame the talent. We just need to play better. We all need to be better. We need more consistency. The quote I used when I accepted the job is: ” If you’re consistent, you tend to execute better. And execution usually breeds success. That’s where we need to grow.”

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