There will be big changes in the B.C. Football Conference this season, but the Kamloops Broncos will feature a similar roster to 2011.
The Broncos are to hold their spring camp at Hillside Stadium on the weekend. Registration and testing will open tonight, 4 o'clock, and will resume Saturday at 8 a.m.
Saturday's practices will start at 10 a.m., and 12:30 p.m., with Sunday's morning practice to begin at 10 o'clock. The camp will wrap up with a scrimmage on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
This camp is a way to get potential players to town early on, as the Broncos won't hold their main camp until July and aren't scheduled to open the regular season until Aug. 5.
According to Duncan Olthuis, who is heading into his second season as head coach of the Broncos, anywhere between 80 and 100 players will show up at spring camp. Of those, Olthuis said, 45 were on the team that went 2-8 in 2011 and missed the postseason.
"It's early, but we're looking to be strong defensively," Olthuis said. "We've done a lot of scouting on (offence) and are hoping to bring a lot of kids in."
Tyler Lee and Drew Makortoff will lead the defence this season, while returning running backs Mike McMaster and Joel Mukendi, along with quarterbacks Jesse Neufeld and Steve Schuweiler, are the biggest offensive threats.
But Olthuis has a few questions about his offensive line.
All five of the Broncos' starters in 2011 have since left. Among them, J.J. Woldum used up his junior eligibility, while Jacob Bigham, Matt Davidson and Aaron Osczezski are moving up to university programs.
Olthuis said Davidson has signed with Acadia in Wolfville, N.S., while Osczezski is off to Edmonton's University of Alberta. Bigham is looking at a couple of schools, Olthuis said, and won't be back.
"It's tough," Olthuis said, "but we do have an advantage on other teams - we can tell young players there's a lot of playing time available right away. They'll see that we've had kids who haven't aged out who are moving up to the next level."
Olthuis spent a lot of the offseason on the phone, contacting schools all over B.C., and southern Alberta. One of the things he's trying to sell to recruits is the fact that TRU is right next door to the Broncos' field at Hillside Stadium.
"We are in a unique position with TRU and us," Olthuis said. "We are the only team in the BCFC . . . to play and practise at a university. It's really an advantage."
Kamloops will open its season on Aug. 5, when the Chilliwack Huskers visit Hillside Stadium. The regular season will run through Oct. 13, with four of the conference's six teams qualifying for playoffs.
There is a new format in the BCFC this season, one that should help the Broncos in their quest for a first playoff berth since joining the BCFC in 2007.
The people who make the decisions created two tiers in the conference, with the Blazers lined up with the Huskers and Westshore (Victoria) Rebels. The conference's stronger teams, the Vancouver Island Raiders, Okanagan Sun and Langley Rams, are lined up together as well.
The new format means the Broncos will play the Huskers and Rebels three times each. Kamloops also will play Okanagan - its regional rival - twice, but will only face the Raiders and Rams once.
The 10-game schedule is aimed at creating parity in a league that has been dominated by the Raiders and Sun for a lot of years.
"I believe it will help us," Olthuis said. With three games against Chilliwack and Westshore . . . they're both good teams, but at least we don't have to play (the Raiders) at Caledonia Park anymore.
"It's a good situation, and hopefully we can take advantage of it."