The world seems right again as football season is once again upon us with training camp opening on Sunday in Saskatoon. It's one of the happiest times of the year... unless of course you happen to be a non-football-loving significant other, a boss expecting productivity or one of my children who foolishly think that TV was invented for any purpose other than showing football.
We will have to wait until June 13th to see the 2015 Rider squad in action. The good news about that is that TSN once again wisely decided that its easier to just televise the Riders' road pre-season game (even if it is in Fort Mac) than the endure the barrage of calls and emails from Rider fans complaining about it not being televised. The system works!
Before I get into discussing the goings on at camp so far, can we all just take a minute and make a collective pledge. A pledge not to buy into anyone's hype during training camp. We've been burned before. We believed Joe Sykes was some sort of sack machine from another dimension even though it turned out he displayed all the sack making abilities of a ham sandwich. We bought into the hype that Terrence Nunn would light up this league and score many TDs even though it turns out his last name was ominously predictive of the impact he would have. We emblazoned jerseys with Kilgore because Chamblin's claim that he reminded him of Adam Bighill just had to be gospel truth even though it turns out that the only thing Kilgore and Bighill have in common is the colour of their skin and the fact that the letter Z doesn't appear in their names. So let us pledge to not be burned again. Be exited, be hopeful, but be aware that half these players will soon be unemployed. So be reasonable until they play a down of even quasi-meaningful football.
Now onto what's going on at camp:
- Surprisingly (to me at least) Jamel Richardson passed his physical and lined up with the starting receiving group. I still maintain that there is no way Richardson is healthy enough get on the field yet alone be the play-maker he was in Montreal. He's our lotto ticket. Odds are we come away empty handed but there is an outside shot at a jackpot. I remain skeptical that his body will hold up through camp in spite of the positive start.
- The starting running back spot will be a battle between Jerome Messam and Anthony Allen. For ratio reasons I think the team would prefer if Messam can seize this opportunity and establish himself as a starter again but they will have no problems going back to Allen if not. In the Chapdelaine offense, the RB's role will be a lot like Wes Cates' was in 2010 under Doug Berry: pass block exceptionally well, catch the ball out of the backfield and be a reliable runner when called on (in that order). Both Allen and Messam can fit that mold. I think we will all just be happy if the RB situation doesn't devolve into another speed dating adventure like last year.
- Despite all the offseason speculation it seems that Brackenridge will be staying at safety (like I have been saying all along). Keenan MacDougall will be work on 2nd down (likely in a Butler-like LB role) but at least initially won't be a starter.
- A few names to keep an eye on (though I am avoiding hyping them as per the above pledge): WR Namaan Roosevelt, WR Nic Demski, LB Telvion Clark, DL Dylan Ainsworth (not a newcomer I know but I just think he's going take that next step in his development this year) and the Rider Prophet Endorsed Eltoro Freeman.
One of these year's players are going to wise up and start bargaining with me not to endorse them given the track record of previous endorsees. It would be the football equivalent of paying the mob for protection even though the mob is the thing you need protection from.