Pedersen: Riders cautiously optimistic heading into 2014 | | Official Site of the Canadian Football League

Depending on who you talk to, plans for the upcoming CFL season for the Saskatchewan Roughriders are coming along quite nicely.

The Riders are into the second week of 2014 Training Camp in Saskatoon presented by Groundforce Drilling and as far as the top of the organization is concerned, it’s two thumbs-up.

“I feel pretty good,” observed Roughrider President and CEO Jim Hopson after watching his troops for a few days of workouts.  “There's a lot of talent out there and we have a great core.  The young guys seem to be making some plays so I think there will be some tough decisions to be made.”

So Hopson figures his team is a legitimate threat to repeat as CFL champions?

“Absolutely!” Hopson smiled. 

“It's a very competitive league and things happen but our team is very well-coached.  It's funny.  You don't want to sound cocky or start sending signals that you think you're better than everybody but I just have a good feeling about this team.  

“I like the direction set out by our head coach Corey Chamblin and this is a team that's learned how to win.  We've been in four of the last seven Grey Cups and won two.  I see no reason why can't do it again.  For me, this is my last full season with the team so to end it on a high would be incredible.”

However before you purchase your tickets to the 2014 Grey Cup in Vancouver to watch your beloved Riders, heed the words of Corey Chamblin.  After five days of workouts, the reigning CFL Coach of the Year let his team have it in the media last week.

“Right now at this point we're a very average football team,” Chamblin huffed. 

“That has nothing to do with the guys that left or who came back.  It has to do with the fact we're average in the way that we do things right now.  We're average in the way that we practice and in our habits.  We have an expectation of how things should be done and right now we're nowhere near that.”


Well if anyone knows how a championship team should practice, it’s Chamblin.  And early in camp he’s been working side-by-side with his coordinators George Cortez (offence), Richie Hall (defence) and Bob Dyce (special teams) to get things down pat.  However it’s not a finely-tuned machine just yet.

“The most important thing for us right now is getting the veterans back up to speed with what we did before and remember all of what we've done,” Cortez explained. 

“For the new guys it's to learn and show us that they're learning what we're asking them to do.  If you're new, it doesn't matter how talented you are.  You have to prove you can do what we're asking.”

As mentioned last week there’s an interesting mix amongst the rookies that populate this roster which is far younger than last year at this time.  It consists of players right out of Canadian junior or university programs alongside established NFL veterans.  They all qualify as rookies and seemingly take equally as long to grasp the playbook.

“The guys that had time in NFL camps are more polished obviously, especially in running routes,” Cortez explained. 

“But all the other stuff is new.  It was easy to learn the waggle at our camp in Florida because there were no linemen and so forth.  It's different here so they have to adjust to that, plus playcalls that ask them to block.  That's a major transition for them because in the States, you're not asked to do that.”

For some reason this feels like a roller coaster at Disneyland that’s waiting by the starting gate as people step aboard and strap themselves in.  The ride is just beginning and heaven only knows the twists and turns that are ahead.

But it’s going to be exciting!

About Rod

Rod Pedersen is the Voice of the Saskatchewan Roughriders on 620 CKRM. You can check out his award-winning blog at Follow Rod on Twitter @sportscage.

Fan Comments
Can't see the Riders being as dominant this season. New players will need time to learn the CFL game and/or systems and develop chemistry with team mates. There will be quite a few new players judging by the ones who have left and there is no guarantee that they will have the same level of talent.
June 11, 2014 - 10:25pm
3RD and 1
Actually the talent in camp is better than ever. The only player that will be truly missed is Dressler. There is 3 top RB in camp to try to win out 2nd year man Sheets spot. Canadian LB Peters (2nd year Man) looks every bit as good and maybe even faster than Hamilton defector ummm, what's his name again. It's funny how fans of other teams think they know what's going on when they don't have a clue. 2 years ago none of you knew any of the Rider Players that have left. We will be replacing Dressler with 2 receivers. One is a clone, even comes from the same State as Dressler. The other is a 6'4" NFL receiver. As for Geroy... His leadership will be missed but he was only a 565 yard receiver. Trust me when I say the Riders will be every bit as good as they were last year. Maybe even better! The main core of this team is still together and Darian Durant will lead as a GC Champion. Go Rider Go.
June 12, 2014 - 9:17am
With all the key players the riders lost after last season they may be fortunate to even make the playoffs, never mind repeat as champions! Calgary & B.C. will be the two top teams in the west!
June 11, 2014 - 2:08pm
Plus als rule, aren't you the one saying how Rider fans shouldn't talk about the grey cup so early on bluh bluh bluh. Seems like that's what your doing now, talking about other teams and the grey cup cause you don't see yourself saying montreal and the grey cup in the same sentence LOL LOL LOL!!!!
June 11, 2014 - 12:56am
als rule
@RR93: whatever floats your boat!! we're in the pre-season where all things are opened to be addressed including the green may be weaker than last season and montreal's chances of making the GC!!
June 11, 2014 - 8:45am
als rule
as good as people think the green will be you can't lose the amount of players and the quality of players and remain at the GC level in 2014!!
June 10, 2014 - 8:48pm
Just wait and see pal. The O, and D lines haven't really changed and they were a huge reason the ground game, the defence and Durant all looked so good. We have a great head office who knows how to get depth, and lots of core guys to still bring us to the repeat.
June 10, 2014 - 10:09pm
You sound scared! A lot of the core has stayed including the o and d lines which were a huge reason that durant, the D, and the running game looked so good. Plus the coach and head office are great at finding and using depth.
June 10, 2014 - 11:27pm
Darian Durant at quarterback, same strong offensive line with two 1000 yard receivers returning. Great secondary that will be back and we still got weldon brown at outside linebacker and Chick, George, and Foley returning on defensive line. We only need couple linebackers and a defensive tackle on defence, and a running back thats good enough to take pressure off the passing game. Don't need 1500 rushing yards again. Basically need four starters and they'll work out the depth situation. As for #7 and #81, there is plenty of receivers out there to look at. Not there calibre but it's Getzlaf's and Smith's turn to lead as Darian works on chemistry with new receivers. It will take time and we likely won't be streaking out of the gate again. But with great staff and talent we have a great and definitely better chance than most teams in the CFL to make the grey cup.

Season is not even started and a coach is fired in Montreal. Larks have a lot more to do before you should even be talking about the defending champs grey cup chances.
June 11, 2014 - 12:48am