Special teams should be a weapon once again in Saskatchewan


Saskatchewan Roughriders Special Teams Coach Kent Maugeri filled in for Head Coach Craig Dickenson for a media availability when Dickenson was sidelined with COVID last season. On Monday, Maugeri substituted for Dickenson once again as he made an appearance on the SportsCage with Michael Ball.

The special teams unit had a slow start for Saskatchewan in 2022, but saw a dramatic turnaround after they acquired Mario Alford from the Montreal Alouettes.

Alford ended up with four returns for touchdowns after the trade. He completed the special teams trifecta of returning a punt, a kickoff and a missed field goal for touchdowns. The 31-year-old would go on to win the Most Outstanding Special Teams Player of the Year award. Maugeri says Alford is a special player.

“He can score any time he touches it. ”

The Riders special teams coach noted that teams began to adjust their strategies following the early success Alford experienced with the green and white.

“They’re trying to spray it away from him just to limit the damage he could do.”

One of the free-agent additions that could assist Alford in the returning game this season is Shawn Bane Jr. The wide receiver agreed to terms with the Roughriders after spending his first two seasons in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders. Bane Jr. saw some action as a returner during his time with the Stampeders.

One of the departures from the Roughriders roster this winter was Kyran “Swerve” Moore. With the acquisition of Bane Jr., Maugeri envisions the receiver will take on the role vacated by Moore.

“He’s going to get a lot of touches cause people will kick away from Mario and I’m excited to see him.”

Along with Alford and Bane Jr., running backs Jamal Morrow and Frankie Hickson have experience returning kicks for Saskatchewan.

Maugeri says with players like Hickson, there is a risk of injury when a player is on the field, Hickson is too good of an option to keep on the sidelines, especially with the limited roster size in the CFL.

“I want a guy who is physical and for roster management, he’s getting some carries, not as many as maybe Ja-Mo (Jamal Morrow) but he was also a really, really unique teamer for us. He was awesome on kickoff, he blocked a punt for us.”

Much like Dickenson, Maugeri aspires to become a head coach of his own one day but added that he likes the current situation in Saskatchewan.

“Quality of life is so important for me, I want to be around good people, a place that winning is important and a place that we can win a championship.”

It took Dickenson over two decades of coaching, mostly working with special teams before he landed his first head coaching job with the Riders in 2019. Maugeri enjoys working alongside Dickenson.

“He’s the best teacher I’ve been around, in any sport. He’s detailed. & he lets the coaches coach. If you have an idea, you’re not scared to bring it up. He’s not going to tear you up.”

More special teams coaches are gaining consideration for head coaching jobs in football, and Maugeri believes that special teams coordinators enjoy some advantages that offensive and defensive coordinators don’t own.

“We get to coach the entire team, the offensive and defensive coordinator, they coach their side of the ball and we get to coach every position group.”

Before becoming the special teams coordinator of the Roughriders, Maugeri was the running backs coach for the green and white (2017-19) and also served as an offensive quality coach.



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