*** 2013 CFL Western Preview - British Columbia Lions ***
From The Sports Network
By Ted Michaels, CFL Editor
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - The oldest team in the CFL last year is getting younger.
The British Columbia Lions, who were the oldest team in the CFL last year by just over 2 years, released or traded some high-priced veterans in the off- season -- none bigger than Geroy Simon, the CFL's career leading receiver. The 14-year vet was traded in January to Saskatchewan. Also gone are slotback Arland Bruce, cornerback Byron Parker, linebacker James Yurichuk, safety Cauchy Muamba and defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell.
There could be as many as six changes to the Leo's defense this season, which may be surprising because they allowed the least points in the league in 2012 and ranked No. 1 in the league in 18 out of 25 defensive categories.
A familiar face has re-joined the Lions. Middle linebacker Solomon Elimimian, the CFL's most outstanding rookie in 2010, signed with the Lions in the off- season after failed attempts to crack the rosters of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns. The addition of Elimimian means that Adam Bighill, who merely had 104 defensive tackles and nine quarterback sacks last year, moves to the outside while Anton McKenzie, who's starting his eighth CFL season, will be a backup at best.
To his credit, when informed that the Lions were adding Elimimian to the line- up, McKenzie was offered a choice: leave BC for a chance to play with another team, or stay in a lesser role. McKenzie chose to stay.
Offensively, the O-line, which was decimated at times last year with injuries, got better with the re-signing of Jovan Olafioye. The North Carolina Central grad, who was a free agent at the end of the 2012 season, took a look at several NFL teams before deciding to return to BC.
Returning from off-season surgery are Jon Hameister-Ries and Dean Valli, as well as Matt Norman, Ben Archibald and Angus Reid.
The Lions are excited by the return of receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux.
Arceneaux rejoined the Lions in May following a two-year absence and NFL stints with Minnesota, Washington and the New York Jets. He was originally a free agent signing of the Lions in May 2009.
The Alcorn State product joins fellow receivers Shawn Gore (62 catches for 722 yards, 5 TD) and Marco Iannuzzi (30 receptions, 353 yards, 5 TD). With Simon and Bruce gone, the rest of the receiving corps is up for grabs.
Andrew Harris, the Lions feel-good story of last season, is back at tailback. The Vancouver native, who played junior football in BC, had 1,122 yards on 187 carries and seven touchdowns and was also used extensively out of the backfield, hauling in 75 catches for 718 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The other question heading into the season is who will back up quarterback Travis Lulay? Mike Reilly, who was the No. 2 last season, is now in Edmonton.
Thomas DeMarco, an Old Dominion product who completed just 9-of-13 passes in 2012, is vying for the spot in addition to Purdue's Joey Elliott, who spent three seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers until he was released. Chris Hart, from Florida-based Webber International, is also competing for the job.
Last year's Lions could have suffered a bit of a Grey Cup hangover after winning the championship in front of a hometown crowd in 2011.
This year, the message from head coach Mike Benevides is simple: leave your ego at the door.
In the last nine years, the Lions have clinched first place in the West Division, which means a bye in the first round of the playoffs, six times.
There are those that say getting a bye create the danger of a team being a little sluggish in the division final. That may have been the case last season, when the Lions lost the West championship at home to the Calgary Stampeders.
Calgary scored just 53 seconds into the game, and the Lions didn't score an offensive touchdown until there was one minute left in the game.
Still, Benevides said he'd take the bye anytime.
The Lions should be in the mix for the No. 1 spot again. Getting younger and more motivated after a gut-wrenching loss in the Western Final could see BC making a trip to Regina for this year's Grey Cup.
FACTS & FIGURES: Division - West. 2012 record - 13-5, First place in West. Playoff result: lost West Final 34-29 to Calgary. Stadium - BC Place. Capacity - 54,500. Colors - Orange, Black and White.
06/12 15:30:27 ET