Saskatchewan Roughriders offensive coordinator Kelly Jeffrey is no stranger to the east coast after a lengthy stint in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS).
For ten seasons, Jeffrey was on the coaching staff of the Mount Allison Mounties, eight of them as head coach (2008-15) and two seasons as quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator, and special teams coordinator.
On Wednesday, the Roughriders offensive coordinator caught up with Michael Ball of the SportsCage before the team departed for their second consecutive trip for Touchdown Atlantic.
In his first season as the offensive play caller for the Roughriders, Jeffrey experienced the worst-case scenario of losing his starting quarterback, Trevor Harris, with a knee injury on July 15 against the Calgary Stampeders.
Last Saturday, Mason Fine took over from Harris as the team’s starting quarterback in their 19-9 loss against the BC Lions in a game where the offence didn’t score a touchdown.
Jeffrey said the offensive game was to accommodate Fine making his first start of the season.
“Looking back maybe take a few more shots in the game where we protect him well.”
With the Roughriders losing Mitch Picton during the contest, they had to employ a fullback, resulting in difficulty moving the ball forward on the field.
A key turning point in the game was when Saskatchewan couldn’t convert a third down gamble inside of the own end during the third quarter. Jeffrey liked the idea of gambling but added they needed better execution in the play.
“I felt good about the play, I still do, I think if we execute, it’s the uncovered guy or the unblocked guy that came through.”
According to Jeffrey, the play call was better for Fine than Harris because Fine is more mobile.
A starting quarterback’s best friend is a reliable running game. Saskatchewan has been successful with their ground game this season, but they struggled in BC, only managing to gain 16 yards.
A problem the Roughriders have encountered when they bring in an extra offensive lineman that creates more traffic.
“By design we would like to try to keep guys out of the box on offence, in terms of not bringing so many guys to the party.”
Looking back to Saskatchewan’s 29-26 win in Week 3 over Calgary, running back Jamal Morrow gained 133 yards on the ground. Jeffrey felt in that matchup the Roughriders did a good job of opening up space for Morrow.
“That’s really where he’s at his best, he’s not that big powerful back that moves the pile, although he can, but he’s such a good slasher, he’s so quick with his feet, when you kind of give him larger running lanes, he’ll find it, he’ll make the right read and he’ll make you pay.”
Morrow’s backup, Frankie Hickson has gotten off to a slow start in 2023. Hampered by injuries, the second-year back has 11 carries for 40 rushing yards this season. Jeffrey acknowledges that there have been factors working against Hickson.
“We’ve been slow to give him a full work load and Jamal has been doing so well, every time Frankie is on the field that means J-Mo (Morrow) is off.”
The Roughriders have two running back formations inside their playbook and may explore those plays this week against the Argonauts.
He added Hickson’s health will dictate his usage at Touchdown Atlantic.
- It was a closed practice for the Roughriders before they flew out to Halifax.
- Saskatchewan released their injury designations for Saturday’s game. Players who will not suit this week include receiver Mitch Picton (head), defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. (knee), safety Jaxon Ford (ankle), defensive back Rodney Clemons (ankle), offensive lineman Zack Fry (lower back) and linebacker Matt Dean (foot).
- It will be at least another week before Kian Schaffer-Baker (hip) returns for another week as he is out this week.
- Defensive tackle Micah Johnson (wrist) is questionable for Saturday.
- Suspensions from Week 7 were announced by the league on Thursday. Left tackle Brandon Council has been fined for an unnecessary hit on BC Lions defensive lineman Nathan Cherry. BC Lions defensive back Quincy Mauger has been fined for a high hit on Saskatchewan Roughriders wide receiver Mitchell Picton.
- Upon further review, the league announced Stampeders linebacker Micah Awe has been fined for a high hit on Saskatchewan quarterback Shea Patterson in Week 6.
620 CKRM will have full coverage of Saturday’s Touchdown Atlantic between the Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts begin with Countdown to Kickoff at 11:00, the Rider Nation Pre-Game Show at 1:00, the opening kickoff is at 2:00.