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Iowa offensive lineman Alaric Jackson remains top-ranked prospect for 2021 CFL draft

They haven't played football since 2019, but Calgary offensive lineman Logan Bandy and Saskatchewan defensive back Nelson Lokombo are still garnering attention.

They haven't played football since 2019, but Calgary offensive lineman Logan Bandy and Saskatchewan defensive back Nelson Lokombo are still garnering attention.

Bandy, a six-foot-five, 285-pound Calgary native, and the five-foot-11, 195-pound Lokomobo, of Abbotsford, B.C., are both participating virtually in this year's East-West Shrine Bowl, which won't be played due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But just being selected is an accomplishment considering U Sports cancelled its 2020 campaign due to the novel coronavirus.

And on Wednesday, the two were included on the CFL Scouting Bureau's list of the top-20 prospects for this year's draft. Bandy was ranked No. 16 (down from No. 12 in October) while Lokombo dropped five spots to No. 19. 

"It's really tough to not be able to play or practise," Bandy said during a CFL videoconference. "In a year that's as crazy as it is, it's about staying fresh and finding ways to make yourself better (even) if that means workouts at home, Zoom meetings or whatever. 

"It's a lot of mental work. In Zoom meetings you're taking notes . . . Nelson and I have both been in meeting for the Shrine game and it's listening to guys who've had the draft experience and what they went through. As for the physical side, it's about maintenance . . . you have to stay as physically ready as possible and go by any means to get that done."

Lokombo agreed.

"It's not what we wanted it to be . . . it really sucks," he said. "I'm back here in B.C. training and it was definitely tough coming out here with no gyms open and not having any access to facilities.

"You really have to be able to maintain . . . whether that's having home workouts or going out for runs on your own time. It's definitely something you have to persevere through."

Alaric Jackson, a six-foot-six, 320-pound offensive lineman at Iowa, again held down the top spot. Jackson, of Windsor, Ont., was ranked No. 1 in the first list released in October.

Josh Palmer, of Brampton, Ont., a receiver at Tennessee, moved up two spots to No. 2 ahead of Chuba Hubbard of Sherwood Park, Alta. Hubbard wasn't initially ranked because he was still a junior at Oklahoma State but has since declared for the 2021 NFL draft.

Calgary's Amen Ogbongbemiga, a linebacker at Oklahoma State, fell two spots to No. 4 ahead of Jevon Holland of Coquitlam, B.C., a junior defensive back at Oregon who also was unranked but has declared for the NFL draft.

Rounding out the top-10, in order, are: Virginia receiver Terrell Jana (Vancouver, ranked No. 3 in October); Texas State offensive lineman Liam Dobson (Ottawa); New Mexico offensive lineman Sage Doxtater (Welland, Ont.); North Carolina State defensive lineman Daniel Joseph (Toronto); and Montreal offensive lineman Pierre-Olivier Lestage (Saint-Eustache, Que.), who was the top-ranked U Sports player.

In fact, 16 of the players listed attended NCAA schools, not a surprise as many American institutions played football this season. The other at a Canadian university was Laurier offensive lineman Bryce Bell, of Waterloo, Ont., at No. 20.

"It's definitely tough to get noticed because the NCAA is played on a much larger scale, a lot more people are in-tune to that," Lokombo said. "But as long as you know what you're capable of and know you can produce when your time comes or the opportunity presents itself, you should be OK."

Lokombo has the benefit of training with his older brother, Bo, a veteran CFL linebacker now with the Toronto Argonauts. The junior Lokombo said while he hasn't formally decided whether to play pro or return to Saskatchewan this fall, the prospect of suiting up with his brother is an interesting one.

"I've always dreamt of playing with him so that would definitely be a cool moment," he said. "I've always been inspired by my brother and having a guy who's in the CFL and is a CFL vet is huge."

The CFL also announced NCAA players eligible for its '21 draft who've decided to use their extra year of eligibility won't have their draft year deferred. The league added U Sports players also had the opportunity to defer their draft year to 2022, with 132 having opted to do so.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan 20, 2021.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press