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Riders rookie camp highlights: Crash course in new concepts

The players continue Rookie Camp tomorrow at Griffiths Stadium in Saskatoon from 8:30 a.m. to noon.
After three of four days with rain in Saskatoon, the sunshine came out for day one of Rookie Camp.

SASKATOON — The Saskatchewan Roughriders rookie camp started with a noticeable change from the moment the players came out of the locker room. The offence came out wearing green, which is a change from previous seasons. The quarterbacks, however, remained in their black non-contact jerseys.

The workout began with some special teams work with returners fielding kicks and potential cover guys breaking down in front of them looking to stop their progress.

After a quick break, the Riders offence began a walk-through with quarterbacks Trevor Harris, Mason Fine, Antonio Pipkin, Shea Patterson and Jack Coan all taking reps finding potential targets in their routes.

At the other end of the field, the new Rider defensive backs were given a crash course on the defending of pre-snap motion and the waggle — a concept that was foreign to most.

After a brief stretch period led by new Strength and Conditioning Coach Dan Farthing, the Riders broke into positional groups. The offensive linemen worked on run blocking with a series of one-on-one drills. The running backs focused on foot speed and lateral movements. The receivers’ focus was on various drills designed to increase their speed and burst coming out of cuts. The defensive backs had a chance to show off their foot speed agility and ability to react to the ball, while the defensive line and linebackers focused on agility and speed.

Following the positional workout, the Riders shifted focus to special teams. During the period a large portion was spent on the fundamentals and the intricacies of playing on the Canadian line of scrimmage and blocking to provide the punters time to kick the ball. Additionally, a number of angling and positioning drills were run for kick coverage.

Next for the Rider hopefuls was a breakout into teams where the offence and defence worked on playbook intricacies and team-specific positioning. The defensive backs, in particular, were challenged to watch for and call pre-snap coverage shifts, adapting to pre-snap motion and formations from their teammates.

As an interesting aside, while the offence and defence went through their drills, newly signed Global punter Joe Coach was given a tutorial on fielding snaps and placing the ball for field goal attempts — a skill that the Riders often ask their punter to possess.

Following that segment of the workout, the team had a break to rehydrate, stretch and refocus on the second half. Note to self, I should have brought snacks for this…

When the day one drills resumed, the team remained split into offensive and defensive groups. The defence’s shift focused on stopping the run through gap control. Meanwhile, the offence moved on to more up-tempo play calling with running back Jarrion Ealy getting a number of consecutive carries, showing a big burst when he hit the line of scrimmage.

At the other end of the field, former University of Saskatchewan Huskie Katley Joseph, who was signed as a free-agent, took reps at safety and looked very comfortable. At one point in the session, he was assisting teammates with pre-snap alignment.

Following that team session, the team broke back into positional groups. In those groups, the team was once again put through a warm-up and stretch session by Strength and Conditioning Coach Dan Farthing.

Following another group session, it is was time for offence vs. defence. The offence started with Mason Fine at the controls and a pair of hand-offs to Jarrion Ealy looked impressive.

Shea Patterson was next under centre handing the ball to Kennedy Brooks.

The third pivot to rotate in was newly signed Jack Coan. His first pass of the morning was just beyond the arms of Jake Parker.

Antonio Pipken was the next passer to come onto the field. He would hand the ball a pair of times to Kennedy Brooks who looked impressive with a pair of cutback runs.

Defensively the line and linebackers made plays, but the highlights were back-to-back interceptions by Holton Hill, who laid out in the flat for a pass in front of a receiver, and Cole Coleman who went up and got a ball on the strong side.


The Weather

After three of four days with rain in Saskatoon, the sunshine came out for day one of Rookie Camp. The temperature slowly started to creep into the teens but a wind from the northeast at 30 km/h kept the day cool.

More sunshine and temperatures near 20 are forecast for the rest of Rookie Camp.


Break-out Play of the Day:

The Saskatchewan Roughriders used a number of pre-snap motions offensively trying to see the coverage of their defences shift to match what they were seeing. One such play in the second teams session resulted in a hand-off to Jerrion Ealy who found a cutback lane and scampered for 25 yards before the whistle sounded.


The One to Watch:

In Saskatchewan we always watch the Quarterbacks. On day one Trevor Harris who came out to get some work in looked fully mobile and recovered from his season-ending injury. However, the rookie that caught a number of observers' eyes was Jack Coan. The former NCAA pivot with Notre Dame and Wisconsin looked poised and made a number of solid throws downfield. He did admit that getting used to the pre-snap movement, bigger field and extra player was an adjustment that he was working through. However, rooming with Trevor Harris at camp is a big positive according to Coan.


What Matters to Mace – Daily Coach Commentary:

Overall Coach Mace was happy with his first practice session as a head coach even though he did admit a couple of times he didn’t know what to do with himself as he previously has been focused on one specific group. However, seeing the level of attention to detail and effort made him happy with day one.

The players continue Rookie Camp tomorrow at Griffiths Stadium in Saskatoon from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

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