Backup pivot Isaac Harker aims to crack the Riders' roster once again
REGINA -- With five solid quarterbacks at Saskatchewan Roughriders’ training camp, cracking the roster is an uphill battle.
Cody Fajardo, the CFL West Division Most Outstanding Player in 2019, is the only pivot with a spot locked up.
Isaac Harker, Tom Flacco, Paxton Lynch and Mason Fine are all battling for the final two spots, as the Riders are likely to only keep three.
For the past 18 months, Harker, the Riders’ backup quarterback in 2019, has been studying the playbook so closely, he could major in a Jason Maas offence.
“I know it like the back of my hand,” Harker said. “I could be brain dead and somebody could call a play from this offence and I feel like (my brain) would show some activity.”
When the 2020 season was cancelled, Harker went to work with Jenkins Elite, an elite quarterback training program in Denver, Colorado. Aside from work, Harker trained and watched game film. The 24-year-old said his sister Tori was critical in his off-season development.
“I put together a spread sheet that would have the different calls for each play dependent on left or right hash and she got used to calling them out,” Harker said. “She probably knows the offense as well as anyone.”
Tori, who plays volleyball with Indiana University East, was compensated for the daily grind.
“For every couple hours of playbook study and help, I’d have to get her a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee,” Harker said.
Football teams use a test called the Wonderlic to evaluate intelligence. An average score is 20. Riders head coach Craig Dickenson said he scored a 33. According to Dickenson, offensive coordinator Jason Maas scored a 42-43. Harker scored a 45, the second highest score Dickenson has ever seen.
Entering training camp, Dickenson was most impressed by how the second string quarterback has returned physically.
“I’ve been really pleased with Isaac and I was really pleased seeing him come in,” Dickenson said. “His body has changed, he looks bigger and stronger than when he was in 2019 and he’s just as smart.”
Dickenson said that Harker holds an advantage to make the Riders’ roster because he’s an incumbent and is already familiar with the offense and plays.
Harker wants to help the ground, regardless if that person is another quarterback trying to take his position.
“If there’s one thing I know, I want the Riders to be the best football team they can be and that means getting the best out of everybody in the room,” Harker said. “I can hang with anybody and I’ve put in the work to be confident in that regard. A rising tide lifts all boats, so I just want to help bring everybody up.”
On Tuesday, receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert left practice with an injury to his right hand, which he appeared to hurt while catching a ball in a mini-scrimmage. Williams-Lambert didn’t participate in training camp on Wednesday, instead standing on the sidelines with a bandage on his right hand and forearm.
Dickenson said Williams-Lambert cut his hand and they expect him to be back on the field in seven to 10 days.