Also retained from last year’s staff will be Steve Hanson (offensive line), Dwayne Masson (running backs), Sheldon Neald (offensive line), and Alex Smith (special teams coordinator). Greg Nesbitt (defensive line) returns to the Rams after a season off from coaching last year, while newcomers Sheldon Gray (defensive backs) and Nathan Hoffart (wide receivers) also join the staff.
“I’m extremely excited at the group of coaches that we’ve put together,” said Gibson, who was named the team’s head coach in January. “We’ve got guys who have been here before and know the lay of the land, and we’ve got new guys who will be great coaches and are excited to be a part of this program. They’ve already got a great rapport and good chemistry as a group and I’m hopeful that they’ll be here for a long time.”
Dawson, who has served as the Rams’ defensive coordinator since 2001, has also been a teacher at Dr. Martin LeBoldus High School in Regina but will now coach on a full-time basis. He’s overseen a Rams defence that has not only produced NFL linemen Stefan Charles and Akiem Hicks over the past few seasons, but also has had a total of seven different players earn first-team All-Canadian status during Dawson’s tenure. Dawson also coached linebacker Mat Nesbitt, the 2007 CIS Defensive Player of the Year.
Greg Nesbitt had been a defensive line coach with the Rams for 12 years – including as the position coach for both Charles and Hicks – and returns to the staff after not coaching in 2014. Gray comes over to the Rams from the Regina Thunder, where he spent 2012 and 2013 as an assistant. He also has coaching experience at the provincial level and with both LeBoldus and Miller Comprehensive High School in Regina. Gray is no stranger to the Rams, having played for the U of R in each of its first five seasons at the CIS level – his 83-yard interception return in his second season stood as a school record for almost a decade before it was finally broken.
Smith returns for his second season as the team’s special teams coordinator. Prior to joining the Rams in 2013 he had coached with the Saskatchewan Roughriders for 16 seasons, mostly as a linebackers and special teams coach.
Hanson and Neald return to guide an offensive line that could return all five starters from the 2014 season. Hanson joined the staff prior to last year after starting for the Rams at right guard from 2009 to 2012, while Neald will return for his sixth season as an offensive line coach with the U of R. Masson returns for his third season as the team’s running backs coach after considerable time coaching at both the junior level and the high school level.
Hoffart joins the staff as a receivers coach after serving in the same role at Miller. He attended the University of Saskatchewan and played for the Huskies before being drafted in the first round by the Roughriders in 2005. Hoffart suited up for both Saskatchewan and Toronto during his CFL career, which finished after playing with the Argonauts in 2008.
Gibson expects to name an offensive coordinator before the team’s spring camp, which is scheduled for April 24 through April 26 at the U of R Field.