Murphy said they’re pleased with the way their roster is shaping up.
“When you look at the age of our football club, it was mentioned at the beginning of last year as a question mark and then leading into the playoffs it was considered a positive at an average age of 26,” Murphy explained. “All of these kids are in the prime of their careers. Sometimes when you come into Regina you’re not sure what you’re getting yourself into but now we know who these people are that we’re putting in that locker room because their talent is unquestioned.
“Zack Evans was eager to seen as soon as the opportunity was presented to him. It didn’t take a lot of convincing. Sam Hurl had some options but chose to go with us and Jerome Messam was the same story. Our fans speak for themselves and our facility has done wonders attracting players. From what everybody has seen, our organization is always going to be first class.”
Murphy was asked if the Rider braintrust is comfortable with where their roster sits today.
“We wouldn’t be comfortable until that last car of the Grey Cup parade pulls into the parking lot,” Murphy quipped. “You can’t sit on last year or sit on the fact that we were 2:37 away from advancing to the Grey Cup. You have to look finitely at the areas of games where we didn’t perform at the level we wanted or get where we wanted to go. Being able to get first downs rushing the ball in short yardage, getting a consistent pass rush with four guys, those are the areas we’ve attempted to upgrade in free agency and via trades.”
Murphy also said it was tough to release high-priced veterans LB Henoc Muamba and OL Derek Dennis this week.
“Incredibly difficult,” Murphy offered. “From the Henoc perspective, it’s what he brought to the table. When we weren’t a balanced team by any means, he accepted what we offered back in 2016 and offered a lot for a year-and-a-half as a strong defensive player and the added bonus of being Canadian. We all know what type of person he is away from the field. He enjoys doing things in the community so you’re not anxious to remove a person like that but we have salary cap implications. Since Henoc was drafted #1 overall, the Canadian linebacker depth in the country has exploded with talent. Whereas at Canadian defensive tackle, Zack Evans is probably the next-biggest name to Ted Laurent. There’s a lot more Canadian linebackers getting to the big dollar range.
“In the past we paid for what we wanted to buy and tried to strengthen both sides of the line. Derek Dennis was a big part of that. It was very important in that time frame to do what we did but we’ve reset and seen where we’re at. Our main job is to find the best available roster and if we can’t find a quality American lineman, there’s something wrong with us. You draft and trade for the best Canadian linemen and find a quality quarterback but the good young American linemen need to be brought in and developed. Every team in the final four in the past few years has played with a good, young American lineman that they’ve found.”