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A Visit From the Reaper

Reggie Hunt checked in with Drew and myself to talk about the long off-season and how ready he is for 2007 to get underway on the Drew Remenda Sports Show Wednesday night. If you missed it, here it is.......

I Just Don't Know

With Rider training camp just a few days away, most people I run into want my assessment as to where this team will finish in 2007. Will the first year of the Austin-Tillman regime bring immediate success or not. The answer is always the same......I just don't know. On paper, the BC Lions still look to be the class of the division if not the league. This team hasn't really changed from the team that walked off the CanadInns Stadium turf last November with the Grey Cup in its grips. The Stampeders have the same key players and Edmonton has vastly improved. The Riders have lost Kenton Keith, Nate Davis and Andrew Greene but I think they have found or will find that the culture in the locker-room is now different. I won't say it was a country club atmosphere with Danny and Roy around but the one thing that lacked under those two was accountability. It seemed at times wins and losses didn't matter to the guys with the "S" on their helmet. If players come to camp this year with that mindset, it won't take them long to be looking for work elsewhere. This Rider team is talented and an appearance in the Grey Cup or a victory at the Grey Cup would not surprise me but it also wouldn't surprise me if this team didn't make the playoffs because of the competitive nature of the West. It will make divisional games even more important than ever. If the Riders can get the upper hand on their western foes, the home playoff game drought could end. If the Lions, Stamps and Edmonton get the upper hand on the Riders, it will be a long off-season. Here's hoping for the best.....but while doing that, prepare for the worst.

Conference Calls...Great Idea

Times are changing not only in Saskatchewan with a new GM and a new coach, but in the CFL front office as well. I have heard nothing but good things about the new commissioner Mark Cohon. Tom Wright will probably go down as one of the best bosses this league has ever had. If Cohon can keep up or even surpass Wright's performance in the commish's chair this league will be stronger than ever. I believe the keys to Cohon's success will hinge on not being pushed around by 2-3 owners that don't do what's best for the league, and to maintain and look for new corporate partners.

All eight teams are allowing the national media to dial in via confernece call to start the season. The Riders were the first up on Tuesday. What a terrific idea this is. Media members from across the country now have access to each and every team. (You can listen the Riders conference here on the Green Zone.) There is no need to overthink what this league has to do. If it can increase the media's access to teams and players, then the league itself will benefit. These calls do that. What a great job by the CFL's front office.

State of the Rider Nation Address

In the first of a series of CFL state of the franchise addresses, Kent Austin and Eric Tillman map out plans for 2007. And we've got it here for you to listen.

Richie's Mettle Will Be Tested

The success of this year's Roughrider team will depend largely on how quickly(if at all) the team recovers from the loss of 2 of the club's most reliable defensive backs. Omar Morgan and Davin Bush have racked up nearly 200 man games between the 2 of them in what's been a pillar of strength during 5 straight playoff appearances. I'm not saying these young guys coming in like Sean Lucas, Lance Frazier and Airabin Justin can't play but what it really does is put the pressure on defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall to teach this group on the fly. This secondary will be built around the veteran presence of an aging Eddie Davis, who in 12 years service has more CFL games under his belt than the rest of the group combined 10 times over. Richie Hall has long been regarded as one of the best at crafting no-name defensive backs into a star-studded secondary. Now he has a perfect chance to prove what he's made of.   

Roughrider Draft Class of 2007!

Check out a review of the Saskatchewan Roughriders 2007 draft picks.

Are There Enough QB's To Go Around

If Rider coach Kent Austin wants to get a good look at his receivers when training camp starts, he may have to start throwing the ball himself. On Tuesday, Queens University receiver Rob Bagg announced he has signed a deal with the club and will be here for training camp. Bagg joins a long list of receivers that will be here. There are Canadians Andy Fantuz, Jason French, Corey Grant along with 2nd round draft pick Dave McKoy. Add that group to imports Matt Dominguez, Jason Armstead, D-J Flick, Thyron Anderson and Craig Yeast along with rookies Curtis Jackson and Josh Tinch. Not everyone will make this team and if Eric Tillman still needs to slash some salaries, I wouldn't be too comfortable if I'm French or Grant. You would think the starters going into camp would be Fantuz, Dominguez, Armstead and Flick but we know how things can change and change in a hurry. I and many others feel Tillman is going to make another significant move before training camp starts. I don't know what area Tillman feels needs to be upgraded but he has many, many receivers at his disposal to float around as trade bait. As I said if Tillman keeps all these receivers around, Kent Austin may have to put on that number 5 jersey again and start slinging footballs otherwise Kerry Joseph, Marcus Crandell and Darian Durant will have dead arms by the time the first exhibition game happens.

Don't Worry About Roughrider Kicking Game,...Relax!

The Saskatchewan Roughriders kicking game still hasn't been completely settled and the Rider nation worries the same sub-par punting problems from last year will plague the team's field position again. Eric Tillman has vowed to bring 3 kickers to camp with Luca Congi likely holding onto the field goal duties while competing with Jaime Boreham and an import for the kick-off and putning chores. 15 different players around the CFL had better punting numbers than Congi's 38-yard average last season including Roughrider receiver Corey Grant who unleashed an impressive 46-yard boot. Boreham's paltry punting average of 39 yards is hardly an upgrade from Luca, especially when you consider the fact Boreham hasn't punted in a CFL game in 2 years. However, when it comes to kick-offs, switching from Congi to Boreham would be a worst-to-first turnaround in that category, a difference of 12 yards a kick. That difference for only a few kick-offs per game might not be significant enough for Boreham to keep a job. The real decision on who'll punt the pigskin will likely come by way of the Calgary Stampeders. Sandro DeAngelis is a lock on their place-kicking job but proven punters Duncan O'Mahoney and Burke Dales will battle it out for one spot making one of them available to the Roughriders. Eric Tillman should be able to address this need without having to acquire the services of an import. One way or another, the Roughriders will be able to adequately fill the kicking game with 2 Canadians to work together. If NFL teams require 2 kickers, than so should the Roughriders. 

Roughriders Implement Code of Conduct

The Saskatchewan Roughriders code of conduct is now a reality. At the team's Annual General Meeting Saturday, out-going chairman Graham Barker announced the new standard of behavior has been approved by the organization's board of directors and will take effect immediately. "We have faced some negative situations in the past few years that have tarnished our brand" Barker said in reference to past player run-ins with the law including the Trevis Smith case. The code of conduct includes all players, management and staff in the Roughrider organization.

Pletch Leads Roughriders

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have named Rob Pletch the team's new chairman. The Regina lawyer has served on the club's board of directors for 5 years and now takes over from Graham Barker whose leaving the team after 6 years on the board including the last 2 as chairman. Pletch says his biggest priority will be to ensure the team is competitive with the rest of the CFL and wants to move forward with more renovations of Mosaic Stadium which would include better seating.


Riders May Have QB of The Future

9 and 9... Here We Go Again

A pessimistic Rider observer like myself would normally cringe when making this forecast, but in this case, Im willing to give the new regime a bit of honeymoon grace. The 07 version of the green and white will be a much different look from what were used to seeing out of the previous dynamic duo, but while Roy and Danny are gone, the mediocrity will remain. Heres a look at how Kent Austins first year of re-acquaintance with Riderville will shake down:

WEEK #1 Saskatchewan 22, Montreal 21

Alouette fans jump out of their seats when Thyron Anderson gets hit for a couple of majors before they all realize he's now playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Kent Austin gets drenched with the Gatorade after Luca Congi misses all 3 field goal attempts (including the game-winning rouge), complaining of boredom from sitting on the bench during punts. New punter Jaime Boreham reminds Eric Tillman of his less-than-stellar punting average by dropping 2 snaps and is released the following week. (1-0)

WEEK #2 Calgary 35, Saskatchewan 14

Smilin Hank strolls into Regina and treats all the Burris-bashers to his annual early season assault on the Rider secondary, which is starting to show the absence of both Omar Morgan and Davin Bush. Kerry Joseph struggles early with happy feet as it takes him until the 4thquarter to realize Rahim Abdullah is no longer a Stampeder. It takes less than 24 hours for the Rider nation to fill up the Drew Remenda Sports Show airwaves and call for Kent Austins job. (1-1)

WEEK #3 Saskatchewan 27, B.C. 25

Dave Dickensons Taylor Field troubles continue as he is sacked 4 times including Jermaine Haleys first as a Roughrider. Saskatchewans front four exposes the B.C. offensive line for losing Bobby Singh. Paul McCallum has a chance to win the game with a 24-yard field goal on the final play but Wally Buono elects to go for the single which sails through the end zone and results in the Roughrider victory, mystifying nearly every-one in attendance and those watching on television. Rider nation calls it revenge for last years western final, a trade-off which B.C. fans gladly accept. (2-1)

WEEK #4 Saskatchewan 20, Edmonton 19

Kerry Joseph struggles early and fires 3 picks, all straight into the arms of Omar Morgan who returns one of them for a major. But with Saskatchewan trailing late in the 4thquarter, coach Kent gives quarterback Kerry the hook and Marcus Crandell tosses a last minute touchdown pass and run play into the arms of Matt Dominguez. Rider nation spends the remainder of the weekend making Grey Cup hotel reservations for Toronto. (3-1)

WEEK #5 Edmonton 30, Saskatchewan 20

Once again, Kerry Joseph struggles against the Eskies, but this time it's Stanford Samuels who burns with an interception-returned-touchdown. TSN cameras show Kent Austin getting into a heated sideline exchange with his quarterback that is reminiscent of K.D. Williams' 1997 blow-up with Greg Marshall. Fortunately this exchange results in no physical contact (Kerry wouldn't dare mess with Kent in that regard) and Marcus Crandell is simply named the teams new starting quarterback. Fans spend the remainder of the weekend cancelling Grey Cup reservations for Toronto. (3-2)

WEEK #6 B.C. 45, Saskatchewan 18

Déjà vu all over again for prairie living rooms witnessing the same score on TV as seen in the Riders last visit to B.C. Place. Kent Austins feud with Kerry Joseph has relegated the 225 thousand dollar a year quarterback to 3rd-string status behind Darian Durant, which is why Durant comes out of the bullpen to mop up in relief of Crandell. Rider brass learns what Rider nation already knew about Darian Durant as the sophomore pivot throws more interceptions (3) than completions (0). Chants of Rocky can be heard from back home in Regina. (3-3)  

WEEK #7 Saskatchewan 29, Toronto 10

Kerry Joseph returns to starting duty and rewards his boss with a stellar 384-yard, 3 touchdown pass aerial assault on the Argo secondary. Damon Allen limps off the field from a hit by Scott Schultz before Mike McMahon is leveled with a Terrell Jurineack hit late in the 3rd quarter. Both Roughrider players are suspended and fined for the clean hits. A furious Eric Tillman demands an explanation from CFL headquarters and given none. An appeal eventually reduces the fines and wipes out the suspensions. (4-3)

WEEK #8 Saskatchewan 30, Edmonton 24

The midseason slump is over and the Roughriders are on a winning streak. Shermar Bracey's 200-yard game along the ground prompts one Rider prider to hoist up a billboard reading "Kenton Who?". The game prompts General Manager Tillman to decide Bracey is the back and even though Kenton Keith has been cut from the NFL, Bracey is still the back. K.K. returns to Regina and is told to accept a reduced role in the Roughrider backfield. (5-3)

WEEK #9 Bye week. Kenton Keith refuses to be interviewed by the Regina media even though the teams media-savvy General Manager instructs him to comply with local reporters wishes. Kenton is banished to Hamilton for his actions where he is re-united with former Roughrider teammate Rocky Butler.

WEEK #10 Saskatchewan 48, Winnipeg 16

Labour Day weekend is finally here. The bashing begins with Nate Davis showing off his slim, svelte figure weighing in at a paltry 318 pounds. "Tillman said I couldnt get under 320 pounds" Davis says, "Well where is he now? Im in the greatest shape of my life!" Tillman responds by pointing out to subscribers that Nate has yet to register a sack this season. Big Nate is held off the stat sheet and is booed at his pregame introduction. Andy Fantuz uses his height to outreach Davin Bush for 2 touchdown catches as part of a career high 226-yard day for the young Roughrider. Fantuz asks Mitchell Blair if the stand-out effort is enough to land him on the Drew Remenda Sports to which Blair responds by saying "I dunno, Drew is still smarting from being stood up not once, but twice before." A call to Remenda confirms all is forgiven and forgotten and Fantuz appears on Remenda just days later. (6-3)


WEEK #11 Saskatchewan 30, Winnipeg 29

Thoughts of first place dance in Rider heads after the latest edition of the banjo bowl. Luca Congi splits the uprights from 53 yards out on the final play of the game. David Asper is caught on camera berating head coach Doug Berry in a post-game tirade, which prompts the team's board of directors to consider giving him full ownership of the team. Andrew Greene announces his retirement, saying his body just can't do it anymore after the 39-year-old is beaten for quarterback sacks 5 times. He asks to retire as a Roughrider, a request which Eric Tillman gladly complies with by inking 'Drew to a one-day contract. (7-3)

WEEK #12 Calgary 23, Saskatchewan 17

D.J. Flick drops the game-winning touchdown pass from Kerry Joseph. The team is stunned to see this big-play receiver let them down before we are all quickly reminded it was the Ottawa Renegades who taught him how to catch the football. D.J. is forgiven and is ordered to spend 3 hours per day catching passes from the machine at practice. (7-4)

WEEK #13 B.C. 31, Saskatchewan 18

Taylor Field fans are reminded the 8-team CFL needs to expand as the Roughriders clash with the Lions for a 3rdtime this season. Buck Pierce fills in for an injured Dave Dickenson and hits Jason Clermont for 2 touchdowns, cementing every-one's belief he will be with the Roughriders in 2008. (7-5)

WEEK #14 Montreal 25, Saskatchewan 24

Luca Congi is out of the lineup with a sore groin and Jaime Boreham is back on the roster to replace him but ends up missing a crucial 34-yard field goal attempt on the final play, costing Saskatchewan the game. A less-than-50 percent healthy Congi re-appears on the roster the next day and Boreham is subsequently released yet again. (7-6)

WEEK #15 Saskatchewan 21, Calgary 9

Henry Burris coughs up his predictable late season hiccup, completing less than 50 percent of his passes and keeps looking for Jermaine Copeland whose too busy checking himself out on the jumbo-tron to catch the football. (8-6)

WEEK #16 Hamilton 24, Saskatchewan 23

Inspired to play his old mates, Rocky Butler successfully lobbies coach Charlie Taaffe to start him against the Roughriders and proceeds to torch the Saskatchewan secondary with 2 long TD passes. But the real killer comes by way of a 69-yard scamper for a touchdown by another former Rider Kenton Keith. He and Butler are hoisted up by their teammates and carried off the field in a championship-like celebration. (8-7)

WEEK #17 Saskatchewan 58, Hamilton 3

There will be no sequel to this Rocky performance. Fans ready to begin the chant are pleasantly surprised with Richie Hall's defensive schemes and the execution, which comes with it. Rocky Butler's struggles remind Saskatchewan of his Thanksgiving Day start in Montreal a year earlier and Rider nation declares they knew Rocky was never really that good all along. Concerned about an outstanding legal matter still pending in Regina, Kenton Keith is reluctant to make the trip but prosecutors agree to leave him alone provided he follow certain conditions during his visit which include staying out of all nightclubs. (9-7)

WEEK #18 Edmonton 30, Saskatchewan 17

Yet again,..... we are reminded of the CFLs need to expand as the Roughriders and Eskimos go head to head for a 4thtime this season. Ricky Ray has a field day and hits Jason Tucker with a touchdown pass after Josh Ranek opens the scoring on a lengthy 86-yard touchdown run. Eric Tillman is furious his staff failed to properly prepare for the "little ball of hate". Kent Austin views it as a blip on the radar. (9-8)

WEEK #19 Toronto 28, Saskatchewan 17

For the first time since 1988, the Saskatchewan Roughriders treat their fans to a home game in November. Unfortunately, newly signed Argo quarterback Casey Printers lights up Regina with a pair of touchdown runs and a couple more through the air, snuffing out hopes of a home playoff game for a 19thstraight year. (9-9)

WESTERN SEMI-FINAL Saskatchewan 41, Edmonton 14

Preparations for Saskatchewan's visit to play the Edmonton Eskimos are interrupted by the appearance of a man wearing a University of Buffalo Bulls sweat shirt. The guest is quickly informed by team management that if he's looking for a job, to check the want adds at Wal-Mart. Rider nation joins it's team on the long drive up to Edmonton as the Kent Austin vertical attack lights up an aging Eskimo secondary and brings back shades of the '89 west final. Gainer the Gopher is prohibited from entering the premises. Eskimos coach Danny Macciocca complains the league wouldn't allow him to turn on the sprinklers to ice down Commonwealth Stadium the night before, as was the case in years past. Rider fans tell Macciocca to shove it.

WESTERN FINAL B.C. 28, Saskatchewan 27

Gun-slingers Kerry Joseph and Dave Dickenson collide on the B.C. Place turf for a 2nd straight Grey Cup semi-final and although the entertainment is better for Saskatchewan, the result is not. Leading by 2 on the final play of the game, Rider priders can only watch in horror while Paul McCallum perfectly nails an 8-yard field goal from the same hash he missed from back in the 2004 western final. Unlike Danny Barrett,.....Kent Austin views this kind of a season as a disappointment and uses his year-end address to promise a championship in 2008.

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