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Riderville.com takes a closer look at the current roster by position and breaks down the team’s outlook heading into the 2013 season.
In this week’s entry we preview the secondary of the Green & White, while next week’s entry will take an in depth look at the special teams.
Entering his third season with the Riders, CRAIG BUTLER will be looked to lead the defensive backfield from the starting safety spot. The London, ON native has proven to be more than capable through his first two CFL seasons. As a rookie in 2011, Butler played 17 games, starting 13 at safety. His 47 defensive tackles, five interceptions and one quarterback sack were good enough to be named a West Division All-Star and the Riders nominee as Most Outstanding Rookie. The hard hitting Butler has received the vote of confidence from Rider management after splitting time with the departed James Patrick last season and will definitely be looking to make the most of the opportunity.
Recently re-signed veteran EDDIE RUSS will return to the Green and White for his third season. In 2012, Russ started 16 regular season games and the West Semi-Final at halfback. In 20 career games the 25-year-old Florida native has recorded 38 tackles and one interception.
Coming off an impressive rookie season TERRELL MAZE will once again look to lock down opposing receivers. Versatility is a key when referring to Maze as the 28-year-old has the ability to play either the corner or half back position. Through 16 games last year, Maze recorded 45 defensive tackles and garnered consideration for the Riders Most Outstanding Rookie.
MILT COLLINS was a positive addition to the secondary before suffering a season ending injury in week 14 versus BC. After joining the Riders mid-season, Collins started all six games that he played registering 14 tackles and one quarterback sack. The New Orleans native is a 54 game CFL veteran and 2008 Grey Cup champion.
WOODNY TURRENE appeared in only four games due to injury after joining the Riders following the 2012 pre-season. The 26-year-old showed potential in limited action but remains a relative unknown to Rider fans having only played six games in his first two CFL seasons.
Five year CFL veteran TRISTAN JACKSON played 13 regular season games in 2012, starting four at defensive back. The 26-year-old can be a solid cover man, but his abilities to consistently contribute as a returner may keep him in a back-up defensive role in order to stay fresh for special teams situations.
MACHO HARRIS will look to build off the momentum he created last year as he enters his second season. The final game of the 2012 season was dubbed by many to be a throw away game as both BC and Saskatchewan were locked into playoff spots. However, after appearing in only one previous game, Harris took the opportunity to show the Riders staff what he was capable of and earned a starting job in the West Semi-Final. A sure tackler with speed and confidence the 27-year-old needs to start where he left off.
Former Saskatoon Hilltop GRAIG NEWMAN, quietly had a very impressive rookie season. Earning his way on to the active roster with energetic special teams play, the 23-year-old began to see regular time on field as an extra cover man. Newman played all 18 games in 2012 listed as a backup linebacker but will be moving to safety to open 2013.
Local product PAUL WOLDU is set to return for his second season in Saskatchewan. After spending his first four CFL seasons with the Montreal Alouettes, Woldu signed with the Green and White as a free agent last off-season. Last season, Woldu played 15 games as a back-up cornerback registering six defensive tackles. He is a two time Grey Cup champion winning titles in 2009 and 2010.
Four year CFL and Rider veteran CHRIS McKENZIE appears headed to free agency. The 30-year-old from New York has played 56 games for the Riders totaling 165 defensive tackles and four interceptions.
Other Defensive Backs currently on the Riders roster:
RAMZEE ROBINSON – Re-signed with the Riders in January after spending the last few weeks of 2012 on the Riders practice roster. Has NFL experience with four different organizations.
BRYCE McCALL – Regina product signed with the Riders in November after spending the previous five seasons with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
TERRRELL SKINNER – Signed as a free agent with the Riders in January after spending two seasons in the NFL.
CHIP VAUGHN – Signed as a free agent with the Riders in January after spending time with Indianapolis, Philadelphia and New Orleans over parts of three NFL seasons.