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Bombers focusing on filling hole at centre on offensive line in CFL draft

WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are taking a serious look this week at two of their top contenders for the first round of next month's CFL draft — a pair of offensive linemen who, they hope, are capable of starting this season and filling a hole at centre.

"Pierre Lavertu's here now, Matthias Goossen's coming in tomorrow," general manager Kyle Walters said Tuesday.

"We're going to let (offensive line coach) Bob Wylie take a look at these guys, put them through a workout. The offensive staff will get them up on the board, you know, start talking about some of our systems, see how they react."

McGill's Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Montreal's David Foucault are currently ranked first and second in the draft but both offensive linemen also are expected to draw a lot of interest from the NFL.

Laval's Lavertu and Simon Fraser's Goossen are the next top-ranked offensive linemen — Lavertu at third overall currently and Goossen at ninth. Goossen made a big jump in the CFL winter rankings to No. 5 spot from 15th and Lavertu was also ranked a spot ahead of Foucault in the January list. All four are highly regarded.

Miles Gorrell, who played 19 CFL seasons as an offensive lineman including four with Winnipeg, was scouting for the Ottawa Redblacks at this year's CFL combine and spoke highly of their talent.

"Their footwork and hand placement are very good, it’s clear they're well coached," Gorrell said. "You see guys like Pierre Lavertu, David Foucault and Matthias Goossen stepping up to the plate and being able to prove to the coaches and scouts they’re ready to take the next step."

With the No. 2 pick in this year's draft May 13, Walters sounded pretty confident they can get one of the players they've identified as meeting their needs. But despite Winnipeg's last-place finish last season, they have to stand in line behind the expansion Redblacks, who get to pick first.

The Bombers lost free agent Justin Sorensen, last season's starter at centre, to the Edmonton Eskimos. The Eskimos, like the Bombers, are trying to strengthen their offensive line.

The Bombers took a chance on their top pick last season, defensive lineman Andy Mulumba, and lost. He signed with the NFL's Green Bay Packers.

Walters, who took over after former general manager Joe Mack was sacked last season, wants this year to be different.

"We're doing everything we can to make sure we make the right pick and get the right guy we want here in Winnipeg."

He says there have been a few calls from other teams interested in their No. 2 pick but either nothing serious or, in the case of the only solid offer, nothing they would even remotely consider.

This season their wish list and the draft seem to be aligned reasonably well.

"Obviously sitting at No. 2, you're sure if you've got two guys that you like you can get one of the two . . . If that's not the case, then you maybe go down a different route," Walters said. "In a perfect world we hope that we like both these guys and if Ottawa takes one we're perfectly fine with the other."

At the same time, he didn't limit their interest to Lavertu and Goossen but said they're the only two players they could bring in right now.

"Some of the guys that we've reached out to, the agents haven't been overly receptive to bringing them in," he said.

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