Roughriders GM Jeremy O’Day is ready to turn the page to 2024

The new year can’t soon enough for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The story of 2023 ended the same as 2022 the Roughriders with a 6-12 record for the second straight season and missing the playoffs.

General Manager and Vice-President of Football Operations Jeremy O’Day hopes 2024 has a different ending.

Plaza of Honour inductee and massive Rider supporter Paul Hill and GM Jeremy O’Day Photo Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards

On to 2024

According to O’Day, the results in 2023 did not meet the team’s expectations.

“We felt good coming out of training camp,” said the Roughriders’ General Manager. “However, we got into a losing streak that we couldn’t break out of.”

He further added, “I am disappointed that we couldn’t turn it around. Good teams always find a way to win after losing a match or two, but unfortunately, we couldn’t get out of the hole.”

O’Day refuses to use injuries as an excuse for the team’s downfall in 2023. But whether it was before the season with Wide Receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker getting hip surgery during the offseason, guys like Wide Receiver Brayden Lenius or Offensive Lineman Philip Blake going down during the preseason or losing a guy like Defensive Back Rolan Milligan during the season, green and white had a hard time eluding the injury bug in 2023.

In February, during the initial stages of free agency, the Roughriders made their most significant move by signing Trevor Harris. The veteran quarterback joined Saskatchewan after two seasons in Montreal with the Alouettes.

Unfortunately for the team and the fanbase, Harris suffered a significant knee injury in Week 6 against the Calgary Stampeders while trying to rush for a first down.

“It’s a challenge losing guys at key positions,” said O’Day.

2023 CFL Draft

Early signs of promise from the Roughriders’ 2023 draft class. Players like their first-round (3rd overall) DE Lake Korte-Moore and their fourth-round selection (30th overall) RB Thomas Bertrand-Hudon.

During the draft night, Saskatchewan made an interesting pick in the second round by choosing Jaxon Ford, a Safety from the University of Regina Rams.

The pick created a great storyline for the franchise, as Jaxon’s grandfather, Alan, was one of the team’s all-time great players and later became the General Manager. However, O’Day, noted that the team had Ford high on their draft board and believed he could bring something valuable to the team.

“The reality is that we just liked what he brought to the table, he’s a smart football player, he’s tough, he’s physical, obviously he’s got the pedigree with his background, local kid which is always a plus, and he didn’t disappoint in his rookie year, it wasn’t too big for him.”

Losing a Legend

The biggest loss to the franchise in 2023 was the passing of the legendary George Reed. While O’Day wasn’t happy with the team’s performance on October 7 when the Roughriders were defeated by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 38-13 on the night when the team honoured Reed, the General Manager felt the tributes throughout the week showed how much Reed meant to the province.

“I thought they paid him (Reed) the tribute that he deserved, talk about a legend that walked around, coming to all of the games, George is a guy you couldn’t get enough of, you wanted to be around him as much as possible, you never wanted to leave when you had to leave him.”

Coaching Change

With the disappointment of a second straight 6-12 campaign, the football club elected to make changes to the coaching staff, as the team announced shortly after the regular season they would not retain Craig Dickenson, who led the green and white since 2019.

Following a coaching search throughout November, O’Day hired former Toronto Argonauts defensive coordinator Corey Mace to replace Dickenson. The Roughriders General Manager said it’s a bittersweet process to go through the coaching change, beginning with the decision to not renew Dickenson’s contract.

“You’re never super excited when you have to make the change, they’re difficult decisions, and they’re good people that you’re working with.”
O’Day continued, “Unfortunately it just didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean the coaches are bad people, bad coaches, it just means it didn’t work out as a whole.”

There has been plenty of enthusiasm inside the team’s office since the announcement of the Roughriders new head coach.

“Working with him everyday has been awesome, something to look forward and some excitement.”

On Friday, Mace will turn 38. With plenty of coaching experience in Calgary and Toronto, O’Day thinks having a younger coach will be a benefit for the team.

“I think he relates to the players well, understands the players and gets the players, but I think its going to be a plus for him, being younger.”

Riders GM Jeremy O’Day. Photo: Blaine Weyland

Key Free Agent Signings

Once the new year hits, free agency is just around the corner in February. The Roughriders have begun work on retaining some of their key players, recently locking up a pair of the defensive side of the ball in DB Amari Henderson and DT Miles Brown.

With Henderson, O’Day feels the Wake Forest product has only gotten better with the green and white.

“He’s improved each year and he’s taken a step from his first year to his second year, came back bigger, he put on ten pounds this year, which was positive for him, and you could see he was more comfortable and so we want him to continue to grow, he loves Saskatchewan.”

Brown’s season ended early due to a torn hamstring injury. However, O’Day is excited to see the potential of the athletic defensive tackle for the Roughriders in 2024. He added that last year, the offence experimented with Brown as a fullback in certain offensive packages.

With the new corner around the corner, Rider Nation is excited to see what the new year will bring, hoping it’s not a repeat of 2022 and 2023.

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