With the CFL regular season approaching its opening weekend on June 25, the Saskatchewan Roughriders took to the field at Griffiths Stadium at PotashCorp Park for their training camp.
This will be the third season in a row that the Riders will use the University of Saskatchewan campus as host for their annual training camp, which also includes a day trip to Prince Albert for practicing.
The Riders’ general manager Brendan Taman told 650 CKOM that 2014’s training camp was a “really good experience and the guys really enjoyed it.” While the contract between the two parties is up after this year, we can expect to see plenty more of the green and white at Griffiths Stadium in the future.
Last season started with promise before crashing down when Darian Durant was forced to miss the final nine games with an injured throwing elbow. The Riders have made plenty of moves this off-season in attempt to get back on top. Some of those acquisitions include former all-star defensive lineman Alex Hall, former Outstanding Defensive Player Shea Emry and top draft pick Nic Demski, all making their debuts in the green and white.
The addition of the former University of Manitoba Bisons receiver Demski should help reignite a passing attack that struggled mightily last season — ranking dead last in yards per game, averaging a mere 196 per contest. His former coach Brian Dobie had high praise for him and told The StarPhoenix he is “a bull in a china shop” and said he is “explosive with great hands.”
Demski was thrilled being picked sixth overall, but was well aware that the work was far from done.
“I can only cherish the moment for so long,” he told The StarPhoenix. “The work is hard out there. The playbook’s hard. The play-type is hard. I’ve got to adjust to that. There’s a lot of work to get to where I want to be, and that’s what is in my mind’s eye right now.”
The defence saw some major changes this off-season with the departure of longtime defensive coordinator Richie Hall and fan favourite Rickey Foley, who tallied 12 sacks last season. Greg Quick will replace Hall as head of the defence and he will have some great players to work with and develop schemes around.
Personnel wise, the two-time all-star Hall will be counted on to produce in Foley’s spot in the lineup as he was a workhorse over the past two years in Saskatchewan. The addition of Emry makes for a scary combination with safety Tyron Brackenridge, as both love to hit and make plays all over the field. With John Chick, Tearrius George, Weldon Brown and Mark LeGree all still in charge of stopping opposing offences, plus the new additions, it could be a very talented group for the Roughriders in 2015.
Even with all the changes, the team will still live and die with their unquestioned leader, Darian Durant. “Double D” has worked hard to rehab his right elbow all winter and will no doubt be ready come opening kickoff.
“The elbow has been holding up fine and I’ve been confident in it the whole time,” Durant told The StarPhoenix. “The rehab went well. The strength is there and everything went fine.”
With 90 players currently sitting on the roster, approximately 35 of them will be let go before the start of the season rolls around. In fact, only 65 of the 90 will even make the trip to Fort McMurray, where the Roughriders will take on the Edmonton Eskimos in game one of the preseason on Saturday, June 13.
Images: Jeremy Britz/Graphics Editor