REGINA — With the departure of Wes Cates following the 2011 season, the Saskatchewan Roughriders went to task on filling the backfield by signing a wealth of capable backs during the 2012 off-season. Through training camp and pre-season a first year Rider ran past the competition and into the CFL limelight.
Kory Sheets sprinted on to the scene last year as a newcomer by earning the starting job through training camp and preseason play. His strong start had him leading the league in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and yards from scrimmage through the first seven weeks of the season.
Appearing in all 18 regular season games, Sheets totaled 1,277 rushing yards finishing second amongst CFL backs and became the eleventh Rider player to reach the 1,000 yard rushing mark in a single season. His 11 rushing touchdowns tied him for the league lead.
A sure handed carrier, Sheets is just as dangerous in passing situations as is evident by his season total of 517 yards receiving, including a 138-yard outing in week seven. The dual threat will continue to make life difficult on opposing defences throughout the 2013 season.
Third-year CFL pro, Jock Sanders, will return after an impressive debut season with the Riders, appearing in nine games before missing the remainder of the 2012 season due to injury. Back to full health, Sanders will look to continue where he left off as the diverse back was a valuable member of the team’s offensive attack, totalling 975 all-purpose yards in just a half season of action.
With three years in Regina under his belt, Brandon West, returns with much to prove. Charted by many as the likely incumbent heading into 2012, West did not get off to a good start and was designated to the practice roster following the season opener. However, through hard work and resiliency West again saw game action in Week 15 at Toronto and responded by returning the game’s opening kickoff 81 yards. His overall speed, and ability to contribute on special teams, could be enough for the 25 year-old to move onto the active roster full-time.
Not to be underestimated is the reliability of veteran fullbacks Graeme Bell and pending free agent Neal Hughes. While excelling on special teams, both players add to the offence through consistent run blocking and pass protection. Both Hughes and Bell are capable of additional contributions when given the opportunity, providing the Riders another dimension.
First year Rider, Stephfon Green spent time on the practice roster near the end of the 2012 season after signing in October. The opportunity allowed the Penn State product to have a firsthand look at Saskatchewan and the CFL should he re-sign heading into 2013 training camp.