When the Riders open up the 2012 regular season Friday night at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, it will officially mark the beginning of the Corey Chamblin era in Riderville.
With two pre-season tune up games under his belt, the first year head coach is more than ready to hit the ground running in week one of the CFL season. Though the team finished with an 0-2 record during the exhibition season, Coach Chamblin is confident his squad has improved throughout training camp and is ready to hit the ground running and avoid the slow start that hampered the Roughriders in 2011. Chamblin was impressed with how his team responded not only to the grind that is training camp, but to the pressure that comes when live bullets are flying.
“There were some good things out there,” noted Chamblin following the Riders tightly contested 33-31 pre-season loss to Calgary. “There were some guys that when the lights came on they really turned it on, and I’m proud to see that, I’m proud to see that there are some players that will contribute game one.”
As the opening kick-off to the 2012 CFL season nears and the Riders prepare for a showdown vs. the Tiger-Cats in what is expected to be a hot & humid night in Hamilton, several new members of the Green & White will make their Roughrider debut.
A closer look at some of the key players to watch in Friday night’s 2012 season opener:
With Darian Durant at quarterback, the Riders have an established veteran at the most important position. In his three years as the starting quarterback for the Roughriders, Durant has averaged over 4500 yards passing and 22 touchdowns. The North Carolina grad has also rushed for an average of 500 yards in those three seasons.
With that being said, the Riders go into Friday night’s tilt vs. the Ti-Cats with plenty of new faces on the offensive side of the ball, most notably on the offensive line.
Protection a Priority
In the final regular season game of 2011, the Riders offensive line went (from L to R) Gauthier,Makowsky,Parenteau, Best and Goodspeed. Heading into the 2012 season, Durant’s personal protectors will be Xavier Fulton, Brendon LaBatte, Dominic Picard, Ben Heenan and Chris Patrick.
#1 overall selection Ben Heenan will make his first career start at right guard as Chris Best continues to recover from a foot injury and free agent acquisitions LaBatte and Picard help ease the loss of Makowsky and Parenteau. Import lineman Fulton and Patrick (both acquired via trade this off-season) will man the tackle positions for new O-Line coach Kris Sweet, and both seem to have impressed thus far.
Kory Sheets has certainly seized the moment during his short time in Saskatchewan.
The 27-year old signed with the Riders during the off-season, along with four other import running-backs. A priority was placed on finding a replacement for veteran RB Wes Cates, as well as finding a back who can push and challenge incumbent 2nd year back Brandon West for the starting job.
Sheets has done everything asked of him to this point, and dazzled the home crowd Friday night with several great plays. In two pre-season games, Sheets rushed for 113 yards and 1 touchdown on just nine carries. Sitting firmly atop the depth chart in the Riders backfield, Sheets will get his first taste of CFL regular season action on Friday night vs. Hamilton.
Expect to see a re-vamped, aggressive defence on the field Friday night as the Green & White look to show off an improved pass-rush, led by the return of Brent Hawkins, and the off-season addition of Odell Willis. The two defensive ends will have their motor running all game long and will look to disrupt the timing of quarterback Henry Burris.
At linebacker, the Riders will field three new starters at the position. Former #1 overall selection Shomari Williams has transitioned from defensive end and will start at middle linebacker, while rookie Abraham Kromah has impressed through training camp and will start on the outside along with former defensive back Tyron Brackenridge.
The secondary is still led by ballhawking free safety James Patrick and will incorporate just one new starter in its group. Eddie Russ will start at halfback, the position which for the past seven seasons was held by Lance Frazier.
Kick-Off at Ivor Wynne is 5:00 pm SK time (7:00 pm ET). Fans can catch the game live on TSN, or follow the play by play live on Rider Radio 620 CKRM.
The CFL is also pleased to inform our fans south of the border that all games will be streamed live on ESPN3.com. This service will be available in the United States only. In addition to ESPN3.com, the league is currently working on a TV deal with a US broadcaster, but that won't be in place for this weekend. CFL games won't be on NFL Network this year.