We’ve talked about the progression that onlookers have seen from the Green and White thus far. From the onset of Day 1 through to the completion of Day 6, it’s becoming more evident each practice that the 2015 Saskatchewan Roughriders have a shot at being very good. Granted, we've also mentioned that there are things that will have to fall into place in order to fulfill that notion, like staying healthy, but it’s been impressive to watch things start to take shape nonetheless.
After two walk-throughs yesterday and with the first “mock game” opportunity fast approaching, the coaching staff did not lay idle and the team went through two high paced practises, with the second one being in full pads.
Now there were some very good things put on the turf today, I thought the team got better which is what the goal is for every day, but there was also something else that was very apparent right from the get-go. The veterans on this team aren’t out here to “get through” camp. The vets are leading the way with their effort and their intensity and it’s rubbing off on some of the younger, or less experienced guys in this camp.
I was watching 1 on 1 pass rush today because we’re going to start breaking down position groups for you guys, along withcertain battles, next week and I was focusing on the big guys. As each Dlineman took his rep against the Olineman that was up, what jumped out immediately is how fast and athletic BOTH groups look. What was even better was the effort and tenacity that the most experienced guys in the trenches were attacking the drill with!
Anyway, I’m watching Brendon Labatte go up against T. George and it was like watching two rookies battling it out for the final two spots in the rotation. Every bit of effort they had, was poured into that one rep. These two guys could literally tape their resumes to the front of their helmets and every time their turn was up, point to it and say, “I’m good here” but they were lining up and doing whatever they could to win the snap. LEADERSHIP BY EXAMPLE.
How could a young guy not go a million miles an hour after watching your leaders compete like their lives were on the line? I saw it to many times in my career where the younger guys would watch two of the teams key starting vets line up for the 1 on 1 drill and “brother-in-law” the whole thing (meaning go through the motions and not push each other). One year I was part of a squad where I would sit and watch one of the teams “supposed” leaders take one step, fire his hands and then stop regardless of where the Dlineman was, as if to say, “I got my work in for that one.” That team had no chance of winning a championship with guys around who approached practice like that. Thankfully this camp is completely VOID OF ENTITLEMENT, and has guys that demand performance from themselves and others, regardless of one’s resume.
You won’t have to go far to look for examples like Blue and T. George either. They’re all over this team. Macho Harris hasn’t stopped talking since camp opened. The difference is, there’s nothing selfish about the things he’s howling. He’s not just running around getting under peoples skin. He’s BUILDING. Encouraging. Continually challenging his teammates to push through the camp grind. Constantly calling for a change in demeanor if there is a loss of focus. And always trying to keep his teammates spirits high. How could you not love being on the field with a guy like that?
Day 6 saw the RBs and LBs line up against each other and compete in a 1 on 1 pass pro drill, and who was out front being the most physical and demanding player of the bunch? Jerome Messam. The same Messam who seemingly came to SK on his last legs in the CFL. Now he’s taking a leadership role within a group that is going to be heavily scrutinized all year. How could you not want to block your tail off for a guy that’s willing to get as dirty as you are if it means getting a first down? WILLING TO SACRIFICE.
There’s talent from top to bottom this summer at the University of Saskatchewan. There’s rookies that are being given chances to compete for spots. Second and third year guys out here trying to secure vital roles by playing at a high level. And new guys with winning experience just beginning to acclimate themselves to the way things are run around here. The thing is; everyone who has been to camp at the U of S, and all the folks that are reading all the various articles on Canada’s team know that all that potential exists.
The point that is starting to be hammered home now is that the strength of this team still lies in leaders that have come to camp as competitive as ever. Everyone is still bought in, and willing to physically do all the things that are necessary to win a championship. The vets are taking hold of this team and showing everyone else the way.
Don’t be fooled by the “age” warnings that outsiders have tried to jinx this team with. If age truly is something to worry about then it forgot to show itself over the last 2-3 days.
As a matter of fact, you better call it and tell it to get here real quick, cause as the crowd was mesmerized by the “Are We Ready” chants at the beginning of practice today led by the face of this franchise, DD4, the only thing not out on the field was any signs of aging.
On Sunday I plan to start talking with all of you about specific position groups, starting with the Saskatchewan Roughriders Offensive Line. Therefore, we’ll skip the afterthoughts, and instead add any of those notes to the general breakdown of the players we look at. Now that you know we’ll be Oline heavy on Sunday, if you’ve got any questions that you’d like addressed about the hoggies, leave them in the comment section, or shoot me a tweet at @lucmull95.
Talk to you Saturday…