May 15, 2024

Training camp, Day 3: The pace was hoppin’ and the pads were poppin’!

SASKATOON — Zakoby McClain made his presence felt and heard during the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ first padded practice of Coors Light Training Camp.

“There was a lot of energy and it was fun,” the 24-year-old linebacker said on Tuesday. “Everybody was ready to hit somebody.

“We’re just trying to win and be better as a team.”

The Roughriders’ players had not worn shoulder pads, etc., through three days of rookie camp and the first two main-camp sessions.

“Definitely, the intensity rose, and that was to be expected,” Head Coach Corey Mace said at Griffiths Stadium.

“There are always certain guys who look great with the shorts on, but sometimes they want to make business decisions when the pads come out. You also see certain guys who are better with pads on.”

McClain, for instance.

“He’s one of the main guys I was waiting for to put some pads on,” Mace noted.

“If you followed his career at Auburn, you know that he’s going to run smack into you and he’s going to be charged up.”

Ohhhhhh, was he ever!

Along with routinely being around the football, McClain was perhaps the most vocal participant in Tuesday’s spirited session.

“I like getting the defence set so everybody knows what they have to do and we can get a stop and get off the field,” he said, “because I’m not going to be on the field all day.”


KeeSean Johnson made a pair of spectacular leaping catches — one near each sideline — during Tuesday’s workout.

“Our receiving corps, from a catching-the-ball standpoint, is very talented,” Mace said. “KeeSean is certainly one of those. He has shown to be that prior to getting here and since he has been here.”

The 6-foot-1, 201-pounder was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the sixth round (174th overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft.

In 10 games as a rookie, he caught 21 passes for 187 yards and one touchdown. He followed up in 2020 with 15 catches for 173 yards in eight games. Over two seasons with Arizona, he made five starts.

Now he is off to a nice start at training camp, but there is more to cracking the Roughriders’ roster than making flashy catches.

“The main thing that I’m always looking for from those receivers is, ‘Are you going to be blocking for your teammates when you don’t have the ball?’ ” Mace said.

“KeeSean’s got a big enough frame to do things like that. To see him go out there and attack the ball and snatch the ball out of the air, that’s always going to be a plus in our books.”


The Roughriders announced the signing of offensive lineman Daniel Johnson, who was selected in the fifth round (41st overall) of the 2024 CFL Draft.

The 6-foot-5, 307-pounder spent the past two seasons with Purdue Boilermakers.

Last season, Johnson dressed for 10 games and started in four. He allowed only eight quarterback hurries, one quarterback hit and one sack.

Before enrolling at Purdue, Johnson appeared in 13 games at Kent State, drawing four starting assignments.

He recently attended an NFL rookie camp with the Indianapolis Colts.


  • “I tip the cap to the offence,” Mace said, giving a special shout-out to the offensive line.
  • That said, defensive tackle Micah Johnson demonstrated (for perhaps the millionth time) his strength and quickness during one overpowering one-on-one drill.
  • Defensive back Holton Hill, impressive throughout camp, registered yet another pass knockdown.
  • Also of note: A 53-yard field goal by Brett Lauther. Now, back to the offence …
  • Trevor Harris was razor-sharp, completing 15 of 18 passes. At one point, he connected on nine throws in a row. If not for a drop, the streak would have reached double digits.
  • Jack Coan and Shea Patterson were both 5-for 6.
  • Coan’s day was highlighted by a sweet spiral that settled into the hands of Kalija Lipscomb, who ran a corner route.
  • Patterson’s precise pass to Mitch Picton, who was in first-down territory, also elicited cheers from the gallery on a calm day — pronounced contrast to Monday’s wind-fest.
  • KeeSean Johnson and Jerreth Sterns led the way with four catches each. Notable was one picturesque play on which a Harris dart was snared by Sterns 25 yards downfield. Mason Fine also found Sterns in a tight window on an intermediate route.
  • Shawn Bane Jr., Geronimo Allison and D’Sean Mimbs each had three receptions (one-on-one drills excluded). Lipscomb, Kian Schaffer-Baker, Dohnte Meyers and Jake Parker recorded two catches.
  • Samuel Emilus made two deep catches during one-on-one sessions. As well, KeeSean Johnson, Ajou Ajou and fullback Bruno LaBelle were successfully targeted over the top.