Lions make final roster cuts before opener

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - With two weeks' worth of training camp now in completed, the Columbus Lions of the Professional Indoor Football League have released their first official 27 man roster for the 2012 season.

Columbus Lions fans will need some time recognizing members of their own team this season, as 18 rookies will comprise the opening 27 man roster this week when the team travels for their season opener against the Richmond Raiders.

"This was one of the most competitive training camps I had been a part of," says Columbus Lions Head Coach Jason Gibson.  "Our coaching staff put together a large crop of players who we believe can carry our tradition of winning."

From its 2011 Division Championship squad, Columbus returns in total only five starters with one lone returner on defense, linebacker Justen Rivers (6'0 255, Eastern Kentucky).  Jeff Lemon (6'0 195, SW Oklahoma St.) and Matt Dunham (6'1 250, Florida St.) are two local rookie products who are expected to play a huge part in the revamping of the defense.  In Sunday's exhibition game, both Lemon and Dunham came up with turnovers.

Back on offense are receivers Gerald Gales (5'11 190, West Alabama), Anthony Merritt (6'0 215, North Alabama), and Brandon Horace (6'4 235, Alabama State) to go along with lineman Dion Small (6'3 310, Troy).

The surprising news is that one of the four remaining offensive players will not consist of quarterback Chris McCoy (5'11 195, Navy).  The former offensive MVP is coming off a 2011 campaign in which he completed 62% of his passes while tossing for 2,847 yards and 58 touchdowns.

Instead, the Lions will begin the 2012 season with Randy Hippeard (6'1 190, Virginia-Wise) as their starter.  Hippeard was signed late into the 2011 season, but impressed the coaching staff throughout the 2012 training camp and showed in Sunday's exhibition he can toss the pigskin throwing four touchdowns.

The Lions open the 2012 season on the road on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. EST at the Richmond Raiders.

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