There’re no denying the Saskatchewan Roughriders are loaded with multifaceted athletes.
Since his arrival in 2015, head coach Chris Jones has provided ample evidence. Last year, he started all-star receiver Duron Carter at cornerback, where he intercepted the 2016 Most Outstanding Player Bo-Levi Mitchell and returned the pass for a touchdown.
“Duron — like I told (reporters) last year when people were looking at me crazy, thinking I had gone crazy – he’s a much better defensive back than what anybody would give him credit for,” Jones said after training camp in Saskatoon Thursday.
“He’s a lot more physical than anyone would give him credit for. He can do everything with the ball in the air.”
Twelve days into training camp, it’s time for Carter to make room and share the limelight as a Roughrider playing on both sides of the ball.
Eddie Steele was activated after the team’s first preseason game and has already lined up plenty of times with the offensive linemen rather than battling against them in practice.
“(Steele’s) another one that if he made a position change like (Carter), he could be a very, very good offensive lineman,” Jones said.
“If you ask him, he’ll say he’s a defensive lineman, but he can go in there and you don’t miss a beat with him in there at guard.”
We know the coach has confidence in Steele and it comes from experience. During the Edmonton Eskimos Grey Cup winning-season in 2015, Steele started two games at guard.
“Back in Edmonton I would go both ways because certain situations happen in a game where guys get injured and you need guys to play offence,” Steele said.
“You got to do what you got to do for the team as far as going both ways, it’s something I’m familiar with. If a situation does happen, I need to be prepared and ready to go.”
While Steele thinks his offensive role is limited to emergencies, Jones might be prepared to use him more often after showing a knack at finding players who can play multiple positions.
Adding to Steele’s appeal is his Canadian citizenship, allowing Jones to manage CFL ratio rules.
That could also help explain why Zack Evans, one of the Roughriders premier off-season signings, also spent time at guard the last two days.
“(Evans) looked a little natural at it,” Steele said with a laugh.
One thing is for sure, neither of Jones’ national defensive linemen requested to play on the other side of the ball, they’re just happy to do what they’re told.
The same can’t be said for Carter.
“He bugged me for about three weeks to play defence, then finally I put him over there, he was just a natural at the defensive back position.
From there, it was time to fine tune his skill set, something that Steele should be prepared for in 2018.
Josiah St. John lasted about an hour before he went down with an injury.
A day after taking to the field without pads, St. John went down after running a non-contact play. Jones said he “twinged something, so we”ll just have to wait and see.”
Special teams dominated the day. Roughly half of practice was spent on drills such as punt block techniques, coverage and returns. Players mostly took a mental day, going over assignments and responsibilities, while running over 100 plays.
Steele said the day was needed after “going hard all throughout camp.”
Tomorrow’s practice is expected to be back at the usual tempo with rain in the forecast for the first time in training camp.