Sunday, 29 May 2016

Views from DAY 1...



Finally #ItsJune (sort of) and we’re thrilled to be back here at Pro Perspective bringing you a twist of insight that you normally wouldn’t get, or at least that’s what we always aim to do!


What a great time to be alive!  Football is back, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders finally get to pay the bills where it counts, ON THE FIELD.


We’ll be with you every step of the way this year on starting with our daily Training Camp reports, combined with more social media output via Twitter (@lucmull95).


Let’s not waste any further time.  Welcome back folks!!!  CFL ball is back!!! 


I got on site today right as the 2016 Saskatchewan Roughriderhopefuls were getting finished with their walk-thru, and before I jumped upstairs to the spot I’ve occupied for the last 2 training camps I had a chance to sit and chat with some elder statesmen of the #Ridernation.  


Not going to lie here folks, it was good to get back to the football talk so I was looking forward to hearing about where everybody had travelled from and what they were looking forward to etc. etc. 


I should have known that all the questions were going to be from their end of the conversation however one of their inquiries in particular stumped me briefly because I had never been asked about it from a fans perspective.  


The question was simple…”What should we expect?!?” which was far from the “How are the Riders going to do?!?” question that I usually get throughout the off-season.


My response after 5 seconds of thought was, “Well I can tell you one thing fellas; pay attention because things are going to be moving at 1000 miles an hour out here in some phases.”


Now I’ve already witnessed a Chris Jones practise tempo after being fortunate enough to travel down to their Vero Beach Fla mini-camp, so I knew what was coming, but I knew that this was going to be a very new experience to a lot of the supporters who came out in droves today.


Sure enough, after the first couple of competitive phases (like 1v1’s, and team drill) I peered down from my press box perch and saw people frantically looking up and down their printed depth charts in a frenzy trying to keep up with the amount of guys that were in and out of the huddles.  As soon as they had located some names of the players that were doing the rep it was like the next group of athletes was up instantaneously running through an entirely different play on the other side of the field.  


Eventually many fans just stopped trying to get a handle on everyone and became immersed in the volume of plays that were being put on film.  


I tweeted (from @lucmull95) the hashtag #OrganizedChaos about halfway through the first team period.  That should have been my initial response to the group of gentlemen I had the pleasure of meeting before warm-ups.


I love the tempo.  It’s very NFL, and NCAA-ish.  Maximizing the time allotted and getting the most reps possible in order to give everyone a fair body of evaluation material and teach tape.  


Chris Jones is a football guy, and that’s not to say any of the coaches before him weren’t, however there’s something about his competitive fire that’s infectious.  We talked all off-season about what it meant to have Jones’ whole staff follow him from his previous stop, however what the fans got to see for the first time today is how bought in this coaching staff is to the culture that they’re installing.  All of the coaching staff here, including the front-office guys, have had a little of that Chris Jones Kool-Aid rub off on them.  The result is an exciting and fast environment.


On the flip side of things as I look at the practise tempo from a player’s perspective, all I can think about is what an incredible opportunity these athletes have in front of them.  Chris Jones and his staff want guys that LOVE the game of football.  That’s why there’s so many reps available.  This coaching staff wants to see the guys who are lining up whenever the chance presents itself.  


Trust me.  Coaches notice who’s taking all the reps, and who’s pacing themselves.  One of the reasons Deon Lacey became an Eskimo, when Jones and co. were in Edmonton, is because they couldn’t get him off film!


I remember Chris Jones commenting on what the types of guys he was looking are and he mentioned Lacey as being in ‘every rep available,’ it seemed like Lacey was the one they were watching at times.  The guy LOVED the game of football! #SeizeTheMoment #BeHungry


Coaches can always work with guys that are hungry to compete.


Other than the noticeable practise tempo, and the great job that the coaching staff did with emphasizing the need to FINISHeverything that this team does within the white lines, there was a lot of good things that the guys are going to see on film tonight as they begin their caffeine filled unit and position meetings. 


Let’s take a look at some of the notes I felt like you guys would want to know about


There’s always a lot of oooh’s and aaahhh’s that surround the Receiving core during the first day of camp, and as talented as this group is, onlookers should account for the fact that it takes a day or so of seeing themselves on tape for defenders on the back end to get their communication down properly.  

There were a couple of assignment busts in the secondary that were communication challenges more than individual faults.  

People also have to keep in mind that some of the DBs out there are seeing the nuances of the CFL, like the waggle and certain formations, for the first time.  Things will get better as the coaches get into the film with their groups.


All the talk that I heard about camp this year usually involved the new crop of wideouts that are in Saskatoon this year, and the new guys didn’t disappoint.  


Joshua Stanford looked good in 1v1’s and Ryan Lankford continued to build on his showing in Florida mini-camp by coming into main camp and catching a few long balls displaying the speed that may have initially impressed scouts.  

I also noticed guys like Kyle Kawamoto out there stretching the field, but as much as the new crop of pass-catchers showed out, it was really nice to see that one of the guys that stood out and set the tone during team periods was a familiar face, #82 NaamanRoosevelt.  


The 2nd year man out of Buffalo and Durant connected a few times for chunks of yardage.  

That’s a huge positive for this squad to have one of the hold-overs from last year come out and make an impact on the first day.  

You’ll hear me say it all year, but especially early, this team needs the players that have been here for one or two years to really step up and provide leadership and productivity while the rest of this team comes together on and off the field.


I’ve also been pretty repetitive with my thoughts on Otha Foster.  He had a good day 1 as well knocking balls down and demonstrating his ability to close a gap between him and a receiver in any situation.  The Roughriders are getting this young man during the prime years of his career and the sky’s the limit as far as productivity goes.  #FutureAllStar


Looking in at what the guys in the trenches did today and there wasn’t a whole lot that stood out, but that isn’t a bad thing at all. Olinemen are like DBs at training camp in that it takes them a film session or two to get their feet and hands in sync.  Usually the Dlinemen start out on fire in things like the 1v1 pass rush drills (I was no different) and then after a couple of practises the hoggies start stonewalling any defensive linemen that thinks that they’re going to be able to rely on 1 o2 pass rush moves.


Kudos to vets like Dan Clark, Brendon Labatte, and Chris Best for being pros and really trying to buy-in to what their OlineCoach Mike Scheper is asking of them.  Schep is a ball of energy that is persistent in his requirements for the small details of the process.  

It’s never easy going from one coach to the next and this veteran group is working on their 3rd positional coach in as many years.  

These guys understand how important they are to the big picture and it was nice to see them really trying to ensure that they were taking care of the small things like running through the line of scrimmage after every 1v1 rep.  #Leadership 


On the Dline AC Leonard showed some good speed and dexterity coming off the edge during 1v1s and during team periods.  3rd year player Kalonji Kashama also flashed some glimpses from his impressive bloodline that seen three brothers Alain, Fernand, and big Hakeem all play in the CFL.  Alain and I played on teams that have competed against each other since high school!


Hasan Hazime has the potential to be an absolute GEM of a pickup for the Green and White.  Playing behind a talented group in Hamilton lead by fellow National Ted Laurent obviously limited Hazime’s reps but in Sask he’s got an opportunity to legitimately compete for a large role in a defensive linemen friendly environment.  Keep an eye on him during June.  For you ratio-minded folks, Hazime could be the piece of the puzzle that many people felt that the Riders were lacking last year.


Overall it was a good first step today at the U of S campus for the 2016 Saskatchewan Roughriders.  A brand new year that brings an entirely new journey.  

From the eyes of an old pro I really appreciated the investment that this coaching staff is willing to put in to this talented group of football players, and it all starts at the top.  

Chris Jones doesn’t move around a lot during practise and that ensures that he doesn’t miss a thing.  He’s always has his finger on the pulse of the process and his controlled demeanor provide fantastic benefits to the productivity of practise.


There’s a different feel to this year.  And much like the question that the group of men asked me this morning, I had to sit and think about what the actual feeling is for a second.


Sure, things were moving fast, but that benefits the players and as much grief as it may have caused some fans that are used to absorbing numbers and names, it made time fly by for the warriors on the gridiron.  


It wasn’t a feeling of uneasiness either.  I think that the amount of change throughout this organization panicked many people on the outside of the Green and White walls, but Ridernation also recognized the necessity for a shift.


After a while I settled on this and I’ve mentioned it a couple of times already so it should have come to me sooner…There is a significantly different level of COMPETE out on the turf this June compared to the last few training camps.  


One gets the feeling that nobody is fully entrenched in a spot, save for the face of the franchise (#4) who welcomes competition anyway, but this is a team that clearly has more potential talent than they have roster spots.


Maybe the chaos wasn’t as organized as I thought…maybe that tempo can be attributed to athletes that know that this job opportunity in front of them isn’t one where there is a favourite already penciled in.


What an opportunity.  Come in and compete you’re a** off.  We’ll take the best guys.  That’s it.  There’s the deal


I can’t wait to watch this whole process play out in front of us.  


New Year, New Journey, new emphasis on a tried and tested variable for success…




Can’t wait for tomorrow.


















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