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Riders rookie camp highlights: Defence earns play of the day

The Saskatchewan Roughriders jogged out onto the turf at Griffiths Stadium for the final workout of rookie camp with the music pumping and a look of determination on many faces.

SASKATOON — The Saskatchewan Roughriders jogged out onto the turf at Griffiths Stadium for the final workout of rookie camp with the music pumping and a look of determination on many faces.

The Riders began the workout by breaking into offensive and defensive groups.

Defensively there was a large amount of work done with the linebacking group working on hand and foot speed.

Offensively it was more playbook preparation as most receivers took turns running dig routes.

The group then came together to get in their daily stretch once again lead by Strength and Conditioning Coach Dan Farthing.

After the warm-up, it was into positional groups. Receivers worked on contested catches, linemen were focusing on attacking from the line of scrimmage and three-point stances.

Defensively there was work on shedding blocks from the line-of-scrimmage. Meanwhile the coaches brought the sled out onto the turf to reinforce quick hands. During the period the defensive lineman also worked on gap concepts and reacting to the opponent.

After 15 minutes the whistle sounded and the team moved back into their special teams drills focusing on setting moving blocks without taking a penalty. The key emphasis from the coaches, “move your feet.”

After the special teams work, the players went back into offensive and defensive groupings. The defensive focused on reacting to the ball and communication while the offence started to develop combination routes.

After those sessions concluded it was time for a break for everyone, except kicker Joe Couch. The Global punter took to the middle of the field working on various kicking styles and ball placement. From a back spin type punt that hung up in the air, to a driving spiral kick, Couch displayed a lot of ball control and precision punt placement.

After the break, it was right back into teams’ sessions. The offence continued to work on playbook install with various cadences being audible from the stands. While on defence various coverage and pre-snap motions were practiced.

Following the instructional work, the team went through a stretching session led by quarterback Trevor Harris and Strength and Conditioning Coach Dan Farthing.

Next up the players headed back into positional groups for more individual skill development.

After the 15 minutes of instruction, it was time to move on to offence vs. defence. The highlights:

  • Interception by #30 C.J. Avery jumping a route in the near flat.
  • Late substitution made by the defence but a great job by linebacker #59 Diego Fagot to ensure the defensive alignment was correct.
  • D’Sean Mimbs with a nice catch on an in-route in traffic.
  • Marcus Murphy breaks a big play on a screen pass to the flat.
  • Nice play action pass execution resulting in a reception by KeeSean Watson.

Following the 12-on-12 work, the line-up broke from the group for 1-on-1 competition while the receivers moved into a 7-on-7 session.

After those individual battles, the players moved on to some speed drills using burst off the line of scrimmage and getting hands up to block potential punts/kicks.

Next it was on to team drills a last chance for players to turn some heads. Highlights:

  • Nice long completion on an out route to Dhel Duncan-Busby (3rd round 2024 Draft Pick)
  • A long pass to the far corner to KeeDean Johnson.
  • Pass underneath to Kendall Watson.
  • Far side flat pass completed to Kalija Lipscomb.
  • A pair of impressive completions to Ajou Ajou.
  • Jack Coan first down pass to Melique Straker on a nice check down read.

Following the team session, it was time for the cool down with the team meeting at centre field. It was then that Head Coach Corey Mace let his team know that he was frustrated with the focus at the end of the practice.

The team then broke it down to get set for Main Camp opening on Sunday.

Today’s Weather:

The sun was shining on the final day of Rookie Camp. With the moderate wind from the west and the temperature near 19 degrees at the mid-point of the workout it felt like football weather.

Not on the field:

Nick Wiebe wasn’t participating in drills again today. However, he continued his rehabilitation workouts with Strength and Conditioning Coach Dan Farthing. Today’s work included running the ladder, various squats and bursts and some big hops.

Break-out Play of the Day:

Despite the offence’s success it was a second consecutive day that the defence won the play of the day. Linebacker C.J. Avery stepped in front of a shallow route to the weak side flat to intercept a pass that likely would have ended up in a pick six, if the play hadn’t been blown down early. Avery, who made the first interception in XFL history, earns today’s play of the day.

The One to Watch:

Offensive Lineman #67 Zack Fry. The 2022 Draft pick of the Riders who went back to finish school at Western after being selected has been thrust into the centre spot at camp. The improvement and growth have been evident as his snaps were on point today not to mention year-over-year improved footwork.


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