Reader Glen Sorestad routinely sends along Rider Reports. Here is the Report that Glen sent me Thursday morning:
Tomorrow evening Rider fans will flock to Mosaic Field in droves, in part to see all of the much-needed changes that the team has effected over the off-season to the venerable Taylor Field facility, but more importantly, to come much closer to seeing what kind of football team Saskatchewan will have for the new season after the stunning disappointment of last year. Since Coach Chamblin has already indicated that the starters in the game against the Stampeders will likely play into the third quarter, it means that, apart from a few injured players, the ones that start the game on both offence and on defence are likely to be the ones who will start the season’s opener for the Riders in Hamilton on June 29th. In short, what we should see, barring all the unexpecteds that can come along in football, pre-season or regular season games, is how we stack up against one of the Western teams we will have to beat to make the pla-offs this season. We have conveniently discounted the pre-season loss in Vancouver where the Riders played their “pups” against the Lions’ “big dogs”, so tomorrow’s game should be a good measuring stick. If the Stampeders administer a thrashing on the Riders akin to the B.C. game, then there will be considerable cause for concern in Riderville. I don’t think this is going to happen, but if it did, it would not mean that our season is over before it begins. It would mean that Chamblin and his coaching staff still have work to do to pull together the pool of player talent into a cohesive team.
I am actually looking for a Rider win in this game, but I expect that it will be a close game because I think the teams should be relatively well matched. What will be interesting to find out from this match-up are a number of things. First, will the newly constituted D-line that will probably feature Shologan and “Furious” George from last year, along with all-star rush end Odell Willis and either Hawkins or Rowe as the other starting DE, be able to sustain QB pressure enough to disrupt the Calgary offence? I believe this lineup will exert a good deal more pass rush than we had last season – and that had better be the case because improvement in that area was not not just a “consummation devoutly to be wished for”, but it it is an absolute necessity. But equally important will be to see (or hear, since it isn’t on TV) what our starting LB corps is like and how they perform. I’m expecting to see Shomari Williams and Mike McCullough sharing much of the load in the middle, but I’ll be very interested in who starts at the other two spots and how effective they’ll be. Chamblin has said that he has confidence that he has an excellent starting front seven on defense, though he hasn’t really told us yet who the seven are and we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see who lines up. Tyron Brackenridge is probably one of the other LBs and I’ll just have to wait to see who the other is, but Albert Kromah is going to make this team, I believe, whether he starts or not. He’s young and he’s going to be a good one.
Similarly, the starting defensive backfield would seem to have only one or two assured starters – James Patrick and Lance Frazier, although it would seem that Craig Butler and Paul Woldu are both going to figure into the mix. Butler is, after all, a Western all-star, so how can he not play? And Woldu has had an outstanding training camp by all accounts. One or more of the DBs will come from incumbents Tristan Jackson, Chris McKenzie, Nick Graham, or Eddie Russ. At the same time, among the newcomers Terrell Maze, Talmadge Jackson or Karl Paymah may have something to say about it.
It would appear that with the foot injury to Chris Best, our #1 CIS draftee Ben Heenan will start on the O-line alongside Dominic Picard, Brendon LaBatte, Dan Goodspeed and Xavier Fulton. It is a great opportunity for the rookie Heenan to show his skills and abilities. If he performs very well (and apparently he did so, for the most part, in B.C. last week), then the Rider will have a pleasant problem to deal with when all-star Best returns to the line-up. However, it would seem that the O-line could be a decided strength for the Riders this year. Tomorrow’s game will also be a testing of the other import hopefuls, Johan Asiata and Chris Patrick. At least one of these could be gone after the cuts that follow tomorrow night’s game.
Darian Durant will start at QB and play the first half, possibly more. It would be great to see him put together an impressive start and lead the Riders down the field to score early and preferably often. After last season, Durant needs an infusion of confidence that comes with performing well and if this O-line gives him some time(and they should) I expect he will show his leadership abilities. Two interesting things to watch when the offence gets the ball is who the RB will be and who will start at full back when they use one. My guess is that incumbent RB Brandon West will get the start, but I have a feeling that Kory Sheets will also see a lot of reps at RB. Will converted-DE Mathieu Boulay start at FB or will Neal Hughes or Graeme Bell get the nod? The prospect of a 250-pound FB (Boulay) is intriguing, especially when it comes to short-yardage plays, either as a blocker or a ball-carrier. But Hughes and Bell, though smaller, are experienced and are good pass receivers as well.
There is no doubt that tomorrow’s game is one that Corey Chamblin wants very badly to win. This time, he will be sending out his “big dogs” against Calgary’s and I have a feeling that he will pull out the stops to make certain that his team plays with passion and determination. I’m looking for good things and hope that Chamblin’s team delivers for him. My next Report will zero in on the tricky matter of building a team from the inside-out, so after tomorrow night’s game we’ll have a clearer idea of the amount of work Chamblin still has left to do.