Carl Hairston during his time with the Green Bay Packers.One of the B.C. Lions' biggest losses this offseason may have been the departure of renowned defensive line coach Randy Melvin for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they've just found an incredibly impressive replacement. The Lions announced Friday that they'd named Carl Hairston as their new defensive line coach, and on paper, his resume as both a player and a coach in the NFL and a coach in the United Football League should make him a great fit. Adjusting to the CFL can be difficult for coaches as well as players, but Melvin had no problem doing that, and if Hairston can follow in his footsteps, the Lions' line should again be one of their most impressive units.
Hairston's resume speaks for itself. He spent 15 seasons playing in the NFL as a defensive lineman and linebacker with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns and Phoenix Cardinals, picking up the nickname "Big Daddy" along the way long before Adam Sandler appropriated it, and recorded 94 sacks and 1,141 tackles. His post-playing career is impressive, too; Hairston immediately went into coaching with Phoenix after retiring following the 1990-91 season, and he served as a pro scout, college scout, defensive line coach and defensive ends coach with the Cardinals, Rams, Chiefs and Packers until 2008. After that, he went off to the UFL and spent three years with the Florida Tuskers and Omaha Nighthawks as a defensive line coach. The man has plenty of experience from both his playing and coaching days, and that should translate well to the CFL.
Hairston also will have lots of talent to work with. The Lions received an unexpected windfall this offseason from the return of star tackle Khalif Mitchell, who looked destined for the NFL, and although they lost fellow tackle Aaron Hunt to free agency, last year's free-agent signing Eric Taylor had a great 2011 campaign and should partner well with Mitchell in the middle. The team still has one of the league's top outside rushers in Keron Williams, and although Brent Johnson retired, that opens up more snaps for Khreem Smith, who also played well in 2011. There could be further additions at defensive end through either the draft or free agency, but even if it's mostly those four guys seeing snaps in 2012, that's a pretty impressive cast.
The adjustment to the CFL will be a bit of a change for Hairston, as the full-yard neutral zone does change some elements of defensive line play, as does the passing-focused game. The wider field also makes a difference, and CFL linemen tend to be smaller on both sides of the ball than the NFL guys. However, that transition didn't pose much of an issue for Melvin, who came in last season with a huge amount of NFL and NCAA experience but had never coached in the CFL; he went on to turn his charges into perhaps the league's most feared defensive front. If Hairston can follow in that path and work well with B.C.'s enviable defensive brain trust of head coach Mike Benevides and defensive coordinator Rich Stubler, the Lions' line may pose nightmares for opposing quarterbacks again this season.