NANAIMO — The VI Raiders are in the heart of their offseason, looking to re-load for another run at a Cullen Cup Championship.
Head coach Doug Hocking is back at the helm and his recruiting for the 2018 football season is already well underway.
"We have to be relentless in the fact that alot of teams are recruiting the same kids. We want these players to understand the opportunities that they're going to have in Nanaimo. That's our focus right now," said Hocking.
The coach says filling out the offensive and defensive lines will be a priority for his recruiting.
Hocking says not having defensive lineman Quenton Bowles will be a big loss for the team.
He feels the Raiders are in good shape at the defensive end position but wants to add some bigger bodies at defensive tackle.
Getting some offensive line help is crucial for Hocking as well.
"We need to be deep at those positions from tackle to tackle," Hocking stated. "We have returning players but you always want competition amongst the team."
Hocking says the O-line typically gets nicked up quite a bit so that's why he likes to have extra bodies.
Fans can expect the Raiders to be deep at the skill positions in 2018 as well, but as Hocking puts it, when he sat on Santa's knee this year he was asking for offensive and defensive linemen.
VI went to a national semifinal last year as the second youngest team in the CJFL according to Hocking.
He says they'll be one of the youngest again.
Winning the 2017 Cullen Cup and coming up just short of a berth in the Canadian Bowl will likely be a boost to recruiting.
But Hocking says the fact that he played so many young players at key positions is a signal to potential new recruits that in the Raiders program, the best players will play - regardless of age.
Having a local flavour is crucial for the organization as well.
Hocking says they want local players to stay local.
"Right now we do have strong ties with both Rob and Nate Stevenson (John Barsby and NDSS coaches). I've been to both of those schools and we've recruited hard in Nanaimo and we'll recruit hard on the Island," said Hocking.
It won't be long until the players are on the field for the first time with February 19 as the target date for weekly Monday sessions.
That will lead up to main camp which is the first weekend in May.
The 2018 regular season will kickoff in mid to late July, and as good as it was to extend the Raiders run into late October last year, the football club has it's sights set on being the last team standing in November this time around.
On twitter: @danmarshall77
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