They blew up the team and didn’t even tell us.
The fact dawned on me early last week while hosting my radio show and chatting with Leader Post football writer Ian Hamilton. After gutting nearly every position on the field and replacing more than half of the coaching staff, the Saskatchewan Roughriders blew up their franchise from last year without notifying us of their intentions.
After a 5-13 season in 2011, who could blame them?
No kids, these aren’t your Mom and Dad’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. With training camp beginning this week at the University of Regina, let’s recap a busy off-season:
• All back-up quarterbacks behind Darian Durant were set free leaving four QBs with no CFL experience to battle it out in training camp for two spots.
• Three starters on the offensive line (LT Alex Gauthier, LG Gene Makowsky and C Marc Parenteau) all left for various reasons and were replaced by LG Brendon Labatte and C Dominic Picard in free agency. The Left Tackle spot, the “blindside”, will be fought for in camp.
• The franchise’s second all-time leading rusher, Wes Cates, was released in the off-season leaving former NFLers Kory Sheets and Louis Rankin along with incumbent Brandon West to fight for the starting job.
• Popular slotback Andy Fantuz was allowed to walk in free agency and no one seemed to care.
• Three-quarters of the defensive line will be new. Only DT Keith Shologan remains but you may have heard of Odell Willis, the controversial rush end who came over in a trade with Winnipeg this winter.
• ALL three linebacker spots are open with the departures of Jerrell Freeman, Barrin Simpson and Sean Lucas in the off-season.
• The defensive secondary is the only spot which could be unchanged with all five starters from last year’s final game back for another year.
• And who could forget about the coaching staff? Greg Marshall and Ken Miller split the role of head coach last year but both are out of the game this season. Rookie head coach Corey Chamblin, who turned 35 last week, has assembled an all-star cast on his staff. TSN’s Matt Dunigan said it reads like a “Who’s Who” of the CFL including Khari Jones, Jason Tucker and Barron Miles. But don’t be fooled; the coordinators (Bob Dyce on offense and Richie Hall on defense) are holdovers from last year providing continuity and stability.
So there you go. They thought they could sneak it by us but we’re too wise! For whatever reason teams in all sports at all levels are deathly afraid of the term “rebuild” and perhaps that’s why you’ve never heard that term used by GM Brendan Taman over the past six months.
But what would YOU call it?