MOOSE JAW – I never thought I would be using Moose Jaw as a dateline for a Riders mini-camp.
But today’s mini-camp at the FieldHouse in the Band City is an example of how the Riders are expanding their brand in a province that they already dominate when it comes to football.
Somehow head coach Corey Chamblin sensed that the weather wouldn’t be great for the mini-camp and the Riders needed to look elsewhere to conduct it. The Credit Union EventPlex isn’t available due to the Taste of Spring, so a decision was made to look around the area and they settled on the FieldHouse.
It was a great idea. I’m not sure how many fans were on hand, but there were enough to make the mini-camp worthwhile. There were some familiar faces from Regina, but a lot of new ones as well. Thursday provided them with a chance to watch the Riders up close. The also got to do it indoors. It was a nice perk considering how windy and cold it was.
Here are some final thoughts and observations from the mini-camp. Those of you who follow me on Twitter may find some of these observations familiar.
- Moose Jaw got it right with their new FieldHouse. There is a regulation-sized soccer field, which can accommodate the needs of most CFL teams. The walking track is outside the support posts, which adds even more space to the facility. A truly first-class facility that I’m sure will serve Moose Jaw for a long time.
- The three players who impressed me on Wednesday and Thursday were defensive end Brent Hawkins, receiver Sinorice Moss and defensive back Chris McKenzie. The current legal woes of Odell Willis increase the pressure on Hawkins to come through after missing last season with shoulder injuries. He did that with his speed and power. He survived all three practice sessions, which has to be a good thing. The Riders really need a pass rush in 2012 and Hawkins is a key to those hopes. Moss can simply fly. The former NFLer showed that when he beat a defensive back on tight coverage at the line of scrimmage. By the time Darian Durant hit him, Moss had three strides on the DB. Moss has speed and would be such an asset to the offence if his skills can translate to the CFL game. I know other players had interceptions, but whenever I looked up McKenzie was picking off another pass. He was also flying around the field. I have to believe the Riders are counting on him in 2012.
- There were a couple of celebrity sightings today. Brian Towriss, head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and a native of Moose Jaw, was on hand to watch the drills. I heard that Colin Thatcher, who lives in Moose Jaw, was also on hand. You’ll have to google Thatcher’s name to find out his background.
- It’s interesting that the Eskimos were showing off their facilities to draft prospect Ben Heenan today in Edmonton. Heenan is projected to be the first overall pick in upcoming CFL draft and the Riders still hold the rights to that pick. Edmonton is slated to pick second. There was some buzz about a trade brewing between Edmonton and Saskatchewan for the first overall pick. The Riders and Eskimos both stated that no trade has been made. I never say never, but I feel the move is more about generating publicity in a hockey-mad market than much else. Edmonton also has a huge stadium to fill and they need the exposure.
- Rob and I covered today’s mini-camp, which is one less person than we had Wednesday. We still have the full-court press. I have leads on Rob Bagg and Shomari Williams. Rob digs deep into the life of Moss. Our efforts will be online later and in Friday’s Leader-Post.