Riders Training Camp Preview: Running Backs

Hugh Charles couldn’t replace Wes Cates, Marcus Thigpen couldn’t and Brandon West couldn’t either. But in 2012 there is no Cates to fight for his job so it’s wide open on who will be the starting running back this season in Riderville.

In: Demetrius Crawford, Kory Sheets, DeShawn Wynn, Nathan Riva, Louis Rankin
Out: Stu Foord, Wes Cates
Returning: Brandon West, Yvenson Bernard, Neal Hughes, Graeme Bell

Camp Grade Battle: A - Obviously Brandon West is the man to beat for the running back position in Saskatchewan, but it’s no where close to a given the sophomore will be at the top of the depth chart when the first game rolls around.

West provides a much different look than Cates gave the team. He’s an agile runner who uses his first step to his advantage. With 5.2 yards per carry last season, it’s a good start for a young player breaking into the league but needs to get better.

I don’t know why I find this intriguing, but I do. West remains the youngest import RB on the roster by almost a full year. Interesting if you’re a believer in the RBs best before date of 30. And I know age was always the fans biggest concern when talking about Wes Cates.

I think West has a bright future.

Kory Sheets, Louis Rankin, DeShawn Wynn and Demetrius Crawford will provide stiff competition.

All four are different body types and different style runners so it’ll be a combination of what the Riders feel best fits the offense and which player takes advantage of a short CFL training camp.

Sheets reminds me of Wes Cates circa 2007/8. Able to move the pile but also has some flash to him. Louis Rankin and DeShawn Wynn aren’t going to juke anybody very often. They are straight ahead, between the tackle types.

Demetrius Crawford is an entirely different back. He has more of what Hugh Charles brought to the table. Short, quick and agile.

The other member is Yvenson Bernard, who has the most CFL experience and gets lost in the shadows a little bit. In 2009, I thought he was going to be the next great CFL back. He had a 6.3 yards per carry but injuries kind of crept up on him. He can go one of two ways. The two years without a carry could be a blessing with fresh legs or a curse because he has to break off the rust from watching a lot more football than he’s wanted.

As for the non-import roll in this offense. Neal Hughes is solid, though aging. The Riders are definitely hoping Nathan Riva can possibly show he can be as flexible as Hughes as a runner, catcher and blocker.

Riva may even get some reps at receiver this training camp. He will also try and fill a special teams void left by Stu Foord, who is off to B.C.

I don’t think I need to say much about Graeme Bell. Solid, works hard and does whatever is asked of him. The three canadians should easily make this team.

Other previews:

Defensive Line

Offensive Line


Defensive Backs