May 9, 2024

Elks Rookie Camp | Day 2 Recap

EDMONTON – Elks Rookie Camp is already two-thirds of the way over, but the competition is far from done.

The most intriguing battles through two days have been taking place on the defensive line, where the Elks look to fill the cleats of departed CFL veterans A.C. Leonard and Jake Ceresna. The duo combined for 24 sacks on the Green and Gold’s D-line last season and will be a tough pairing to replace. However, if the talent in rookie camp is any indication, there is a lot of room for optimism when it comes to chasing down opposing quarterbacks in 2024.

“When you lose two guys like we lost, you have to replace them with guys that are good players,” General Manager and Head Coach Chris Jones said. “We’ve got to find those sacks, and those tackles for loss have to come from somewhere, so that’s certainly been a target that went out and tried to do a good job bringing the talented players.”

One of those players is Robert Nkemdiche, who comes in with about as high a pedigree as you can find in pro football. The 29-year-old entered the College recruiting process as a five-star prospect and is one of only four players in the last 22 years to be the consensus top recruit — JaDaveon Clowney, Vince Young, and Ernie Sims were the others. Jones hopes to harness the pedigree that saw Nkemdiche become a first-round NFL Draft pick and turn him into a QB nightmare for the Elks.

“Well, he was the number-one rated defensive lineman in his class and he’s a dominant force,” Jones said about the passrusher. “It’s a matter of, can he pick up the CFL game? Can he be consistent? Can he do all the things that he used to do at the high school level that allowed him to become Robert Nkemdiche.”

The product of Atlanta, Georgia is excited at the opportunity that presents itself. He hasn’t suited up for a team since he was with the San Francisco 49ers in 2022 and said he was excited about the prospect of learning the CFL game.

“I’m feeling rejuvenated,” Nkemdiche said. “I’m focused and just hungry to get better and mess with these guys. I just really want to savor into the moment and the opportunity at hand.”

The former Ole Miss alumni is joined by a bevvy of talent fighting for roles in the trenches. Former Mississippi State defensive lineman Randy Charlton has shown some solid power on the interior of the line, while Elks 2024 second-round pick D.K. Bonhomme was able to win a couple one-on-one reps with his length and bend.

D.K. Bonhomme (#47) wins a rep during Elks 1-on-1s during Day 2 of Rookie Camp

The competition at camp is all leading up to some tough decisions by Jones and his staff, as they have to cut down the roster to 85 players (excluding non-counters) before Saturday.

“I mean, tomorrow’s never a fun day,” Jones said. “We’ve got to cut 10 guys going into tomorrow, and that’s never fun at any level, ever. But, it’s a reality pro football, so guys have to show up this afternoon and make the corrections, and then show big tomorrow, or unfortunately, we have to let them go home.”

Jones brought up a lesson given to him by former Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting coordinator Ronnie Cottrell when asked about the tough decisions he faces on Friday night.

“When you’re having to make hard decisions, it means you’ve done the right thing,” Jones said. “If it’s easy decision personnel wise, then you really didn’t do your job as the personnel finder.”