Monday, April 23, 2018
OUT OF THE TUNNEL: BREAKING DOWN THE RIDER ROSTER
By: RodPedersen.com Staff
The countdown is on.
It is now less than one month (a mere 26 days), until CFL training camps begin across Canada. The Saskatchewan Roughriders will once again be back on the Griffiths Stadium turf on the beautiful Saskatoon campus at the University of Saskatchewan.
To get you ready, here is what Out of the Tunnel thinks the current roster will look like on a depth chart. Some are easy to plot, some are incredibly difficult, but in the end it’s just educated conjecture and also open for comment and fun.
This will change a bit after this week’s mini-camp in Florida, but here it is:
- Slot in Dan Clark as the starting centre for now with Brendan LaBatte as his immediate backup. None of the other players on the roster have much experience at centre. There may be a push from a few of the many Canadians on the roster to replace, but for now it’s Clark's job.
- Travis Bond has played guard the majority of his pro career -- just not in Saskatchewan. Place him at right tackle (where he played a handful of games at North Carolina) and flip Coleman to left.
- The Riders are hoping for three things at guard:
1) LaBatte and Dyakowski to stay healthy all year.
2) Hit the jackpot (for the first time in five years) in the draft with an offensive lineman. However 2nd round pick Dariusz Bladek might end up being the steal of the 2017 Draft.
3) One of the six other Canadians on the roster can step up.
- The Riders offence was at their best with Cameron Marshall in the backfield. Jerome Messam can flip the ratio but with a ton of miles on his body, the coaching staff will try to use him in limited but crucial situations. Marcus Thigpen is a dynamic runner and Trent Richardson is a true old school bell-cow running back (how useful that is in 2018 is up for discussion).
Christion Jones will be the best return man in the CFL and will flip the momentum in at least four games this season. There is a lot of hope for Johnny Augustine as a Canadian runner.
- Spencer Moore is back at fullback and will look for some more touches on offence while Albert Awachie is a great blocker and solid special teamer with his experience on defence in college.
- A ton of Americans starting across the board with the trio of Duron Carter, Bakai Grant and Naaman Roosevelt ready to accumulate 1,000-yard seasons.
- Rob Bagg is set to start on the wide side.
- The third slot spot will be an American in most situations with Caleb Holley, but there will be three former CanWest all-stars, Jake Harty, Brett Blaszko and Mitch Picton battling for playing time.
- It's a pretty simple depth chart. Zach Collaros is pegged as the starter with the ever-improving Brandon Bridge pushing him. Marquise Williams is an incredible talent and will push to make the roster in 2018.
- This is incredibly thin area right now with the staff hoping John Ojo is completely recovered from his Achilles tendon injury. Jovon Johnson doesn’t have too many years left in his 34-year-old body. Crezdon Butler and Ed Gainey are the only sure things.
- At safety…take your pick between Jeff Hecht, Mike Edem and Marc-Olivier Brouillette. All can play and all are great special teamers.
- Sam Eguavoen is a special talent and an easy nod at the weak side. Sam Hurl will fill out one of the Canadian spots at middle linebacker. And a bit of a shot in the dark, place the dynamic Taylor Mays at the weak side/cover spot. At 6-foot-4 and 240-pounds, the former college strong safety is a perfect fit at that spot.
- Defensive end is thin with just three players, but the three players are a pair of all-stars in Willie Jefferson and Charleson Hughes and a young up and comer in Tobi Antigha.
- Zack Evans was brought back to be a starter at defensive tackle with Eddie Steele and Makena Henry as solid backups. Nick James and Rakim Cox were solid American finds at defensive tackle.
- Pretty easy: Josh Bartel, Tyler Crapigna, Jorgen Hus and Christion Jones return as the specialists.
The Seven Canadian Starters:
LaBatte, Clark, Dyakowski, Bagg, Hurl, Brouillette, and Evans
- The CFL Draft is Thursday, May 3 and the excitement (or lack thereof) is obscure at best. Probably only the top 5-8% of fans are actually super keen and will dial in.
Why is the guess so low? Well think of the 33,000 plus fans at Mosaic Stadium. Now think about the people that sit around you. Do you think any of them could tell you where Trey Rutherford or Dakoda Shepley or Ryan Hunter went to school? (UCONN, UBC, and Bowling Green, respectively -- in case you were wondering).
Until the players report to your respective teams’ training camps, the majority of CFL fans simply don’t care, and I’m darn sure the CFL.ca draft story hit-numbers would prove it.
- The big story coming out of U.S. college football the past few weeks is the change to the kickoff rules. They will now allow a returner to call a fair-catch if he receives the ball anywhere inside his own 25-yard line (and not in the end zone). The ball will then be placed on the 25.
It was implemented to try to eliminate some of the high-collision hits that happen on kickoffs.
- We love football, and the game must change to survive. So, it’s time to eliminate the kickoff all together. To have players take a 30-40 yard run at each other and to inflict unnecessary punishment is archaic. This will get some people riled up (we see you Rob Maver) but there are some great solutions.
One of the best was from former Temple head coach and current Ohio State defensive co-ordinator, Greg Schiano. His proposal came because of the Eric LeGrand spinal injury in 2010 when Schiano was a head coach at Temple. Schiano proposes (courtesy of Time magazines Sean Gregory), that after a touchdown or field goal, the scoring team retains possession, getting the football on its own 30, facing fourth-and-15. The team either can go for it or punt it away. In effect, punts would replace kickoffs.
So, in the CFL, place the ball on the 35 and make it third-and-15, and let it rip. Kickers still have a job, one of the more dangerous aspects of the game is eliminated and it makes for some entertaining football!