Riders GM Jeremy O’Day discusses QB Depth, newest signings & 2023 Rookie Class on the SportsCage

With the six games remaining left on their schedule, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are now entering the final third of the regular season as they make their playoff push.

For General Manager and Vice-President of Football Operations Jeremy O’Day there is no slow time during the year. With the scouting staff concluding their trips to NFL camps, the attention is turned back to helping the green and white make that final dash to the postseason.

On Wednesday, O’Day joined Michael Ball on the SportsCage to discuss the team’s quarterback depth, their latest signings and the early success of their 2023 Draft class.

GM and Vice-President of Football Operations Jeremy O’Day. Photo: Blaine Weyland

Insurance that Pays Off

There were a lot of questions when the Roughriders elected to keep four quarterbacks following training camp. It turns out that the extra depth was needed with Trevor Harris and Mason Fine both sidelined with injuries.

O’Day said a tight battle for the backup spot in Saskatoon, which led the team to keep their options open by retaining all four quarterbacks.

“It was so close,” said the Saskatchewan General Manager, “I can’t tell you how many conservations throughout training camp between Jake (Dolegala) and Mas (Fine) cause they both have good skillsets and it was so close even when you looked at the analytics.”

Dolegala began the season on the practice roster with Harris in place as the team’s starting quarterback and Fine as the team’s backup. With the third quarterback utilized for short-yardage situations, Shea Patterson was on the roster at the beginning of the season.

On July 15, Harris sustained an injury against the Calgary Stampeders. Dolegala was moved for their Week 7 matchup in BC. After Fine suffered his hamstring injury in Montreal on August 11, the Central Connecticut product took over the starting position.

For Future Use

In the past, teams in the Canadian Football League (CFL) used the month of September to stockpile their rosters for the playoff push with additions from the National Football League (NFL).

Even though teams will take advantage of the roster expansion that occurs in September, O’Day says the majority of the players that they sign at this point of the year are used more for development purposes, with the coaching staff concerned about the upcoming game on their schedule.

“We tell them when they’re here to take everything and learn as much as they can from the veterans.”

He did note Saskatchewan has enjoyed recent success with a late addition.

“If you look back, Rolan Milligan was a good example of that. A couple of years back he was brought up on the practice roster and did a nice job, and a few weeks later we actually put him and he played in a playoff game as well.”

Immediate Impact

It usually takes years before deciding how successful a CFL Draft Class can be. While it’s only been 12 games for the 2023 Roughriders draft class, the team has been pleased with their early success.

First-Round pick Defensive end Lake Korte-Moore, Second-Round pick safety Jaxon Ford, and Fourth-Round running back Thomas Bertand-Hudon, all draft picks, have made an instant contribution on Saskatchewan’s team this season.

Third-Round pick linebacker Matt Dean also spent time on the roster while battling a foot injury.

O’Day feels Korte-Moore has gained valuable experience this year.

“What’s nice with him, he’s obviously playing on special teams and doing a really good job on special teams but he’s also taking reps and he plays at d-end for us.”

The Roughriders General Manager and Vice-President of Football Operations are pleased with Ford’s ascension in the green and white roster.

“Hats off to Jaxon (Ford) for earning the coaches trust, working hard in practice and showing that he fits out there in our game. “

O’Day noted that Bertrand-Hudon has similar characteristics as one of his former teammates.

“I don’t want to say he’s Neil Hughes, but he has a similar skillset as Neil Hughes, someone that can play running back and fullback.”

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