Moffat: Als take lineman with local roots, but NFL ties

Rick Moffat
5/14/2014 3:05:20 PM
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Jim Popp won't have to go very far to check in on his first round CFL draft pick.

With Popp caring for his wife who is recovering from a shark bite suffered in Hilton Head, South Carolina, Universite de Montreal's David Foucault has done the general manager the favor of choosing a team just 20 minutes away for his NFL free agent tryout.

“That's the calculated risk we take,” admittted Popp of Foucault's decision to work out with the Carolina Panthers. “I'm going to try to sneak in and see if I can watch him a little bit.”

CFL agent Darren Gill calls the 6-foot-7 Foucault “electrifying,” with “stud freak athletic ability,” adding, “people gravitate to him and his sense of humour." Gill also confirmed Foucault -- who would have had the no. 1 NFL combine vertical jump for O-linemen-- drew interest from the Miami Dolphins along with several other NFL clubs.

“What we're comfortable with is he grew up an Alouette fan, he always wanted to be an Alouette and he's from our home town,” Popp said. “He's one of the best players in the draft and we know if he doesn't stick in the NFL he'll be happy to come to us.”

The fact the no. 5 selection overall is a lifelong Alouettes fan whose favorite player is Anthony Calvillo is only a bonus. 

With the retirements of Andrew Woodruffe and Scott Flory, the Als still feel they have time to groom him at guard, with the succession plan to ultimately keep the tackle position Canadian, which currently remain the undisputed domains of Josh Bourke and Jeff Parrett.

While defense was the Alouettes' strength in 2013, co-ordinator Noel Thorpe has to be pleased three of the teams next four selections were invested on the defensive side, including 10th overall pick Andrew Lue of Queens, a possible Mike Edem clone.

“He's very physical, puts his hands on receivers,” Popp said.  “We think he can have an impact immediately on special teams and can move around from corner to halfback and possibly to ‘Will or Sam' linebacker.”

Looking for talent in the middle and late rounds is a Popp speciality, and once again the only architect the Alouettes have known since their rebirth in 1996 is pleased with his third and fourth round picks.

“I call him ‘Quadzilla',” Popp said of James Tuck, a fourth rounder from York.  “He has massive thighs. He may be able to play defensive end or linebacker for us.”

Tuck has already realized a life-goal, becoming the first Lion since CFL veteran Ricky Foley (coincidentally the D-lineman who concussed Anthony Calvillo) to be drafted.

“I'm ecstatic, I can't even measure,” Tuck gushed over the phone soon after receiving a call from the Alouettes.

“Foley's been pretty inspirational, taking me aside at spring workouts, showing me little things,” Tuck said. 

An admitted Argos fan in the past, Tuck has also trained with James Yurichuk.
“I look up to him. He's got a high motor and I like to think I have one as well.”

Popp's annual sleeper may be third round selection Jeff Finley from the University of Guelph.

“He's the ‘Klassen' of this draft,” insisted the GM. “Michael Klassen took it to the next level for us last year and we really feel Finley is that guy.”

Last November, Finley was cheering against the Als in their playoff loss to the Ti-Cats. He'd met several, including Henry Burris and as a St. Catherines, Ontario-native was a longtime Hamilton supporter.

Finley promises to be a quick study on Alouette culture thanks to fellow Gryphon alums Ryan Bomben and Jake Piotrowski. 

Finley's defensive co-ordinator at Guelph was Kevin MacNeill, a former Alouette, who was with the team for all of three days on a free agent tryout. 

“I don't think I even had a cup of coffee,” MacNeill chuckled. 

But Finley's work ethic is no joke.

“He's extremely physical, quick and hardworking.” McNeill mentioned.

Finley should also be a quick study since he's a science student studying advanced anatomy.

“He knows his way around a cadaver,” revealed MacNeill.

With that being the case, getting his hands on live quarterbacks should be no problem.

Jim Popp (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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