Category Archives: Zach Collaros

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Saskatchewan Roughriders Quarterback Dilemma

One week in and the Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback dilemma is well underway. Which, if you’ve been following for the last decade is par for the course. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. After testing the waters on Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly, the Riders turned back to Collaros and made him the starter.

This was a smart decision for a few reasons, after battling it out with Brandon Bridge last season, Collaros now didn’t have to look over his shoulder and could assume the role as QB1 with confidence. Secondly, with coaching turnover and a degree of roster turnover, Collaros’ leadership was desperately needed. Now, after being placed on the six-game injured list, the Riders find themselves at a crossroads. Do they sign a veteran quarterback like Kevin Glenn? Or do they see what they have in Cody Fajardo, Isaac Harker and now Bryan Bennett? Who will be the next Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback?
Option One: Bring in a Veteran
Why it’s a good idea
As mentioned plenty of times leading up to the 2019 season, the West Division is loaded. To stay competitive, the Roughriders will need to be efficient on offence and not rely on the defence to carry the weight as they did in a 12-win campaign in 2018. Luring Glenn out of retirement provides that option. In 2017, Glenn was able to put up more than respectable numbers with 25 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and 4,038 yards. That season also saw three Roughriders receivers go for over 1,000 yards.

Craig Dickenson would ideally like to start his first head coaching gig on the right foot, by being a competitive football team in a tough division and potentially vying for a home playoff date, one year before hosting the Grey Cup. By signing Glenn, the Riders would likely be in the thick of the race well past labour day. However, long-term it doesn’t set them up for success.
Why it’s a bad idea
It’s quite simply too short term thinking. By bringing in a veteran “stop-gap” quarterback (we’ll stop picking on Glenn though Saskatchewan reached out to him), the Riders are merely pushing the problem into the next season. Let’s assume a veteran quarterback swoops in and saves the day for the Riders, hauling them to a crossover spot in the gauntlet West Division. Is one playoff appearance enough to compensate a complete lack of contingency plan going into the 2020 season? Many would be wise enough to say, no.
Option Two: Roll with Fajardo and Harker
Why it’s a good idea
By sticking with Cody Fajardo (27), Isaac Harker (23) and Bryan Bennett (27), the Riders can properly evaluate what they have now and for the future. Fajardo hasn’t had much of an opportunity to display his talents in his three years in the CFL. With Toronto and BC, Fajardo was used primarily as a short-yardage specialist. That didn’t stop him from rushing for 437 yards and 13 touchdowns over his first three seasons. By sticking with Fajardo, he can fully display his mobility in the offence (Fajardo ran a 4.63 at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine).

Harker, on the other hand, enters the league as an even bigger question mark. The 6’0 Indiana product attended Colorado School of Mines College in 2018 having prior went to Indiana State from 2014-2017. With Colorado, he threw for 39 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 3,858 yards and 67% completion.

Here’s a look at the TD pass to Bob Pugh from Isaac Harker. It’s the second 60+ yard TD for Pugh this season. #MarchOn pic.twitter.com/5hoMZ7C9M9
— Sycamore Football (@IndStFB) October 21, 2017

It’s not often we see quarterbacks come straight from US programs and have immediate success but it appears as though he has earned his spot, beating out former Saskatchewan Roughrider quarterback David Watford for the third string spot in training camp.
Why it’s a bad idea
For all the upside, these two players could end up being Brett Smith 2.0 (no disrespect to Brett). Smith showed flashes in his 2015 campaign, throwing for 15 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Many thought he was a lock for the backup spot in 2016. However, a poor showing in pre-season led to his release. The difference in Smith receiving those meaningful snaps in 2015 was that the Riders were 0-5, the season was already looking like a write-off. Glenn and Darian Durant were both injured as well. The Riders were able to afford to see what they had in Smith as there wasn’t much to lose.

2019 is different, the Riders are 0-1 with 17 games to play in the regular season. There are players on the defensive side of the ball who are either in their primes (Micah Johnson, Ed Gainey, Loucheiz Purifoy & Zach Evans) or the twilight of their careers (Charleston Hughes, Solomon Elimimian). Is it in Saskatchewan’s best interest to start one of two inexperienced quarterbacks with these players on the roster? The Riders aren’t exactly a rebuilding team as they boast the oldest average age in the CFL.

The Riders have the CFL’s oldest roster heading into 2019 at 28.2 years per player – the CFL average is 27.3 years of age.
— Rider Radio 620 CKRM (@CKRMRiders) June 13, 2019

Flip a coin
It appears as this article was being written, the Roughriders have elected to go with the two-quarterback system for Thursday’s game in Ottawa. This same formula drew the ire of Rider Nation last season when Chris Jones deployed both Bridge and Watford throughout a series of games with little success. Depending on how this version of events goes, the Riders will have a decision on their hands. To try and save their season with a proven veteran or roll the dice with the young guns.

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Saskatchewan Roughriders Training Camp Battles

After a very long off-season that consisted of everything from a wild free agency period, a tutorial in provincial labour laws thanks to the CBA negotiations and everything in between, football season is almost here. Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp battles will be the consuming the headlines in the weeks to come, below is a primer of who will be competing at what positions before week one. Under the watch of new head coach Craig Dickenson, there will be plenty of positions up for grabs.
Back-up Quarterback
Last season around this time, it was a battle for the starting quarterback position that was dominating headlines. Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge duked it out for the starting spot. Collaros ended up winning out but Bridge saw plenty of time in Collaros’ absence, including the West Semi-Final.

That brings us to 2019, after striking out on Bo Levi Mitchell, Mike Reilly and Trevor Harris, the Riders brought back veteran pivot, Collaros. But it didn’t stop there, Saskatchewan brought aboard journeyman quarterback Cody Fajardo to compete with David Watford. Many fans will remember Watford getting his reps during Chris Jones’ infamous quarterback carousel in Collaros’ absence.

Fajardo brings with him three years of CFL experience but just 414 yards passing to show for it. His rushing stats are what stand out, however, with 437 yards and 13 touchdowns to show for his work.
Wide Receiver
The receiver position has overgone an overhaul over the last number of seasons. Back in 2017, Duron Carter, Bakari Grant and Naaman Roosevelt led the way. All three eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards that season. The up and coming Caleb Holley also put up 600 yards of his own. Now, two years later, just Roosevelt remains.

In the CFL’s off-season depth chart series, second-year player Shaq Evans appears to have the boundary receiver position held-down. However, opposite of him there’s a battle of Nationals at the field receiver position between Cory Watson and Mitch Picton. Watson was added this past free agency to provide a veteran presence on what is otherwise a young receiving corps.

Watson appeared in 18 games last season for the BC Lions, hauling in 38 catches for 408 yards and three touchdowns. Picton, on the other hand, has been biding his time on the Riders practice roster over the last two seasons. With Collaros firmly supplanted as the team’s starting pivot, both receivers should have equal opportunity to build rapport and prove their worth over camp and pre-season.
Offensive Line
The Riders have an interesting mix of young and old on the offensive line, which may come as a benefit. Left tackle is presumed to be anchored by Takoby Cofield, though Terran Vaughn started the first seven games of the 2018 season. At left guard, Brendon LaBatte will enter as the starter. However, it certainly helps that the Riders signed Dakoda Shepley who can step in if needed. Injuries hit the Riders offensive line in waves last season. Dan Clark will hold down the center position.

The most intriguing battle in the trenches may come at right guard. 33-year-old Philip Blake and former 11th overall pick in 2017 Dariusz Bladek appear to be vying for the starting spot. Both are nationals. At right tackle, Thaddeus Coleman will likely hold his spot as he did in 2018.
Again, citing the CFL’s off-season depth chart, it appears Crezdon Butler will be moving outside after spending a few seasons at defensive halfback. The emergence of Nick Marshall last season at least ensures one of the two cornerback spots are solidified. However, Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post reported May 20th that slotback Kyran Moore was going up against Butler in various drills. Assuming Ed Gainey and Loucheiz Purifoy hold onto their spots, Butler with his experience would be a good fit opposite of Marshall.
Middle Linebacker
Finally, at middle linebacker, an interesting battle is taking place. Let’s pretend for a second that Solomon Elimimian is pencilled in at the weak-side linebacker spot and Derrick Moncrieff is on the strong side. That leaves Cameron Judge and Sam Hurl to compete for the middle linebacker position. Hurl has the experience of having been in the league since 2012 and has also been a major contributor on special teams. Judge, on the other hand, is a former second-overall selection from the 2017 draft. He burst on to the scene last season with 41 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Both Hurl and Judge are nationals. This may be the most interesting battle at Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp.
The Last Word
Needless to say, there are plenty of more battles that are going to take place at the Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp. Players mentioned above may be surprise cuts or perhaps traded. Others may emerge as dark horses that many did not see coming, such as Marshall last season. No matter how you look at it, competition brings out the best in others and the Riders have plenty to offer in 2019’s training camp. Rider fans will hope it all translates to on-field play come kick-off June 13th against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

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