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June 29, 2016

Luc Mullinder’s ProPerspective – Change

CHANGE…The act or instance of making or becoming different.

It’s a word that’s easily defined and relatively harmless when it’s cast into a light by itself however in the world, and business, of FOOTBALL the word CHANGE is far more likely to make one run for the hills than anything else.

No matter how the 2016 CFL season plays out in Ridernation, historians and early morning coffee clubs will look back on this year as a significant turning point in the Saskatchewan Roughriders existence.

CHANGE has been the focal point of the organization since the final curtain closed on last year’s forgettable campaign, and as a consequence there’s still a TON of anxiety that surrounds this football team.  New players, new coaches, new schemes, and new attitudes have not been something that all fans have adjusted to as yet.  Things may have been manageable had this CHANGE happened gradually with a pace that matched this province’s “last minute” temperament, however this transformation hit quicker than a Chris Jones Cover-0, +1 blitz.

Yes folks, the last 6 months in Riderville have been anything but pedestrian, and as hard as it is to remove oneself from the crowd that’s asking all of the questions, one may discover a place of solace in the age-old adage, “The more things change, the more things remain the same.”

For everyone’s sanity no matter how new the fabric of this team may feel to the faithful supporters of this franchise, FOOTBALL hasn’t changed!

Never mind the brutality of the business side of this sport.  The actual GAME that is played on the field, between the white lines, still relies heavily on the components that may be an early strength on this particular football team.

When the Saskatchewan Roughriders hit the field against the Toronto Argonauts, and throughout the rest of the 2016 season, despite the many questions, they will have the opportunity to dictate the pace of the game on the Line of Scrimmage, and that in itself will always be something this coaching staff, and team, can build on.  For those looking to debate a case for optimism in Saskatchewan, one would be well within reason to argue the Green and White have an Offensive Line that is capable of keeping the squad afloat while the rest of this talented roster comes of age.

The facts are undeniable.  There are SIX Offensive linemen that have won at least one Grey Cup Championship during their careers in that locker room, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders only have to field 5 of them on any particular play.  Any CFL prognosticator worth his salt will talk of how important depth is in the CFL.  Even as a former defensive lineman, I yield to the reality that the most important position group next to the QB, is the Oline and the Riders are a unit that has QUALITY options in case the deck needs to be shuffled.  That, quite frankly, is a luxury that not all teams in the CFL have.

A good, nasty Offensive Line is the lifeblood of any CFL franchise and although one still has not seen this group in regular season action, all signs through June seem to be pointing in that direction.  This Oline, led by stalwarts Brendon Labatte, Xavier Fulton, Dan Clark and Chris Best has demonstrated the effort and attitude throughout the early weeks of June that it takes to be exceptional over the long run.  The addition of Thaddeus Coleman and Andrew Jones, two free agent pick-ups that were with this same coaching staff last year only bolstered the locker room with experience and an understanding of the culture that was going to be implemented.  Whatever young talent that Chris Jones, John Murphy and Jeremy O’day infuse after that group is icing on an already decent cake.

Thursday nights game under the lights will be the first REAL look at the 2016 Saskatchewan Roughriders.  In the FINAL opening game ever in old Mosaic Stadium there will be no shortage of storylines and narratives.

From the opening explosion of the BRING EM OUT introductions to the fevered crescendo of the initial kick-off, the game day production and experience that Saskatchewan is known for throughout the league will be incredible.

The process of identifying Ridernations new hero’s will finally begin on this long weekend.  Fans of the Green and White were cheated out of Week 1 action so the anticipation has had a week to build to an all-time high.  Yet through all of this hype, and all of this eagerness, the game itself will be dictated the same way it has for the last hundred years.

This will not be the same Toronto Argonaut team that lost its home opener to the Hamilton TiCats.  To think something like that in a professional football setting would be extremely naïve.  But do not, under any circumstances, fall into the trap that visual CHANGE may have brought about.

The formula for the success of this football team lies exactly where the history of this game says it should.

It’s the players upfront that will lead the 2016 Saskatchewan Roughriders.  They are a talented and experienced group that has won Championships and been through their fair share of ups and downs.  They are built to shoulder the load.

Wins and Losses are determined on the Line of Scrimmage.  THAT will never change.