In the finest spirit of Canadian football, we proudly present five players to watch — along with a rouge!
The expansion of this elite group to a sextet accounts for the obvious, essential inclusion of Trevor Harris, who is to start at quarterback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Friday’s CFL pre-season game against the host Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Harris did not play in Saskatchewan’s pre-season opener — a 30-27 victory over the visiting B.C. Lions on May 27 — but is now poised for a much-anticipated debut.
What will it be like to wear a Roughriders uniform for the first time in a non-photo-shoot situation?
“I think it’s one of those things that I’ll think about after the game,” Harris said. “When I’m getting ready for a game, my full focus is on what I need to do between the white lines for the time that I’m in the game and making sure I’m managing the game properly.
“But after the game, I’ll get to look at the green and white. It’s something that I’ve talked about that I’ve always wanted to do — to be able to put on that jersey.”
Harris underlined that point on Feb. 15, during his introductory media conference as a Roughrider.
Now, how will his on-field debut unfold and how long will it last?
Head Coach Craig Dickenson and Offensive Co-ordinator Kelly Jeffrey will allow the natural flow of the game to determine the extent to which Harris is utilized.
He is expected to play all of the first quarter and may also see duty in the second frame. To be determined!
“We want to give him a certain amount of throws,” Dickenson began. “We want to see him in certain situations. We want to give him a red-zone series. We hope to do a tempo series with him.
“We want to make sure he gets a ‘go’ ball and gets a corner-route thrown. He’s got a checklist of what we want to see from him and Coach Jeffrey’s going to call the game and see if he can get it.”
Once a sufficient number of boxes have been checked, the Roughriders will hand the ball to Mason Fine, Jake Dolegala and Shea Patterson — three quarterbacks who are competing for the No. 2 spot.
As much as a quarterback is a catalyst, the same can be said for the centre. After all, the centre and the quarterback are the only two individuals who handle the football on every play.
With that in mind, we extend a warm Saskatchewan welcome to …
Like Harris, Godber was a high-priority signing on Day 1 of free agency.
He will be the Roughriders’ starting centre when regular-season play opens June 11 against the host Edmonton Elks.
Tonight’s game is the first opportunity for Harris and Godber to work on their chemistry in a game setting.
“A lot of times in pre-season, you’re not game-planning, per se, for other teams,” Harris said. “You’re just going out there and executing.
“There can be those things, but I know those will be fun things for him and I to talk through, because he’s a football nut just like me. We love talking through games and stuff and making sure that our cadence is right and that he can hear me on the road.
“When you get in a big environment, a big stadium, when the game is actually going on, sometimes they can’t hear you, so I’m just making sure my voice is loud enough.”
With the vocal chords in mind, Harris planned to “drink some good ol’ hot tea” the night before the game.
KEITH CORBIN III
Like Harris and Godber, Jake Wieneke is to play his first game as a Roughrider on Friday.
Per the depth chart, next in line at Wieneke’s slotback spot is Corbin III.
The rookie receiver sparkled against B.C. last weekend. He caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Patterson and set up another major by drawing a pass-interference penalty on a deep route down the right sideline.
“He goes and fights for any ball that’s in the air,” Jeffrey said of Corbin III. “He really competes hard.
“Early on (at Coors Light Riders Training Camp), we kind of had him moving from position to position, so he didn’t show as well early until we kind of settled him down into one spot.
“Then he took off, because he could really focus and get better at that.”
Like Harris, Godber and Wieneke, Banks was a priority signing in the early hours of free agency.
Banks joined a deep and talented group of defensive linemen — one that includes Anthony Lanier II.
Lanier II is to start at a defensive end spot. Right behind him on the depth chart is Banks, who had eight sacks over the past two seasons with the Calgary Stampeders.
“Banks is a quiet, soft-spoken guy but when he gets on the field, he’s very productive,” Dickenson noted earlier this week.
Friday’s other starting defensive end will be Pete Robertson, who had seven sacks over the Roughriders’ first four games in 2022. Bryan Cox Jr., a training-camp standout, occupies the same tier as Banks on Friday’s depth chart.
The depth chart shows Dalke as the starting safety. That is quite the rapid ascent for someone who was selected in Round 6 (54th overall) of the 2022 CFL Draft.
The former University of Alberta Golden Bears star — a two-time Canada West All-Star — quickly made a positive impression on Defensive Co-ordinator Jason Shivers in 2022.
Shivers is accustomed to working with trustworthy safeties (see: Mike Edem, Loucheiz Purifoy) and the cerebral Dalke meets that criteria despite having only 18 games of CFL experience.
A game against a Winnipeg side that has appeared in the past three Grey Cup games, winning two of them, will be an excellent test for Dalke and present a prime opportunity for the coaches to appraise his performance.
I know, I know … Korsak was among the five players listed last Saturday, back in good ol’ days when we didn’t cheat by adding a sixth Roughrider.
As a courtesy, we have added five new names to “five players to watch,” thereby justifying/salvaging the premise and, perhaps, my career.
Korsak once again bears watching in light of the fact that he is to handle all the punting versus Winnipeg.
Incumbent Kaare Vedvik, also a Global player, suffered a minor pull of a quad muscle on Wednesday and has not made the trip to Winnipeg.
Vedvik was called upon twice against B.C. He averaged 44.5 yards per punt, with a net of 39.0.
On three punts, Korsak registered averages of 44.7 (gross) and 40.3 (net).
The state of the punting competition after the B.C. game, and for most of camp: Too close to call.
At Rutgers last year, Korsak accomplished the rare feat of posting a net average (44.1) that exceeded the gross (44.0). That performance was taken into consideration when he received the Ray Guy Award, which is presented to the premier punter in NCAA football.