10 THINGS I THINK I THINK
1 – HERE WE GO: Is this the end of the off-season? Not really, but the Saskatchewan Roughriders annual Florida minicamp is a sure sign that football season is right around the corner. I don’t believe the off-season is officially over until Day 1 of main training camp, which is Sunday, May 20 in Saskatoon. However as far as this week’s minicamp goes, I’m P.D.E. (Pretty Darn Excited).
2 – PLAY-IN DAY: The Florida minicamp unofficially opens with a Play-In Day on Saturday in Bradenton, FL where dozens of players will participate and the top few will be carried over to the mini-camp on Tuesday and Wednesday. 620 CKRM’s SportsCage will be broadcasting live from IMG Academy on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 4:00 pm ST.
3 – CREAM OF THE CROP: I’m particularly eager to watch Saturday’s open tryouts simply because I haven’t seen any of Chris Jones’ before. I’m interested to see what paces Coach Jones runs the hopefuls through, and how the coaches decide who out-performed whom. Over the past several months, Jones has literally seen thousands of players at tryout camps all over the USA and has whittled that group down to 40 or so for this week’s minicamp. It’s a testament to the players’ abilities just to get HERE!
4 – IT MEANS SOMETHING: While football critics say you can’t put much stock in a player’s performance in shorts and T-shirt in a minicamp, it’s worth noting that these camps have proven to be fruitful. Last year Luc Mullinder and my top three players were: Zavian Bingham, Antwane Grant and Toby Antigha. Grant and Antigha ended up making the team – with Toby being named the team’s Rookie of the Year – while big things were expected from Bingham until he got hurt and wasn’t heard from again. Will he resurface here this year? Stay tuned.
5 – WHY FLORIDA?: Many have asked that question since other CFL teams are holding their minicamps in Canada. However it was explained to me that it’s far cheaper for American players to travel within the US and many don’t even have a passport (they’ve never needed one). If they show well enough here, they’ll have time to obtain a passport prior to main training camp in Saskatoon.
6 – ATTENDANCE: If any of you are considering attending this week’s camp in Bradenton, be sure to bring ID and a lawn chair. IMG Academy is a secure facility sitting on 560 acres of land and is a sight to behold. This camp has proven to be very entertaining for Rider fans in the past. Last year, Vince Young was of particular interest to football-crazy fans in Florida. I’m excited to see if there are any big football names trying out for the Riders this time around.
7 – WALSH ACRES: Watching the goings-on of minicamp will be fascinating, but I’m also looking forward to meeting new Rider QB coach Steve Walsh. The pivot-turned-coach played 11 years in the NFL and was on Marc Trestman’s staff last season in Toronto. He was also an administrator for two years at IMG which might be a reason why the Riders moved their camp from Vero Beach, FL, a place they adored.
8 – THE QBS: Saskatchewan has four QBs on its roster (Brandon Bridge, Zach Collaros, David Watford and Marquise Williams) and all will participate in this week’s mini-camp. They are listed in alphabetical order because it’s clear it’s far too soon to establish a depth chart. Every one of them has a ton to prove and this camp is their first chance to put their best foot forward.
9 – MORE ON THE QBS: We all know why the fire burns in Brandon Bridge and after his most-important off-season yet, we’ll start to see this week how far he’s come. Zach Collaros doesn’t really need to prove anything other than that his injured knee is back to 100%. His drive, arm and smarts aren’t in question. David Watford has routinely drawn praise from Chris Jones so it’ll be interesting to see how far he’s progressed and Marquise Williams was unable to practice for much of last year after being placed on the Injured List. Many feel he’s the “Next One”, so the Florida camp means a lot and you know he’s itching to get back out there.
10 – THE SUNSHINE STATE: Just a note about the flavour of Florida. I’ve already been all over the Tampa area over the few days that I’ve been here. It’s clear they are crazy about the Lightning and Steven Stamkos, Jon Cooper and Steve Yzerman are held up as gods. The sports pecking order goes as follows: NFL’s Buccaneers, NHL’s Lightning, MLB’s Rays. Football is king here and when you mention you’re from the CFL, they sit up and take notice. It’s fun answering their questions about our great 3-down game. They’re watching.
Over N’ Out