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'It's a heavy competition': Riders' battle for backup quarterback underway

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Trevor Harris has returned from injury and will be the starting quarterback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders this season. Now, the question lingers: Who will be his primary backup?

“It’s a heavy competition and those guys know that. They’re battling their tails off and organizationally it’s a good problem to have,” said head coach Corey Mace, when asked about the battle for the backup spot.

Last season, Mason Fine was the first to take over when Harris went down with his season ending injury.

Fine started the next four games but was injured in his fifth, which meant the team turned to third stringer Jake Dolegala. Dolegala went on to start the nine remaining games of the year even when it was suspected Fine could have returned.

During the off-season the team decided to re-sign Fine over Dolegala – which caused some controversy and raised questions amongst Rider Nation.

“At the end of the day you want to prove the doubters wrong and you want to prove those people who believed in you right. So I was grateful and excited to get back to work just to show management and the coaches out there who believed in me that I want to do the best I can for this team and win a Grey Cup for this team,” Fine said.

Even with the controversy, Fine says he remains close to the former starter.

“I talked to Doley [Dolegala] afterwards and when it was going on and gave him a heads up. We’re still close to this day, we’ve been texting throughout training camp,” he said. “I think he’s having a pretty good camp out in B.C. and I’m excited to see what his future holds and he wishes the same for me.”

In the Riders first pre-season game on Monday all five quarterbacks listed on the roster took reps: Harris, Fine, Shea Patterson, Antonio Pipkin, and rookie Jake Coan.

Fine was battling a minor injury and was only able to take a couple of snaps but it was Patterson who was turning some heads after he went 3/3 for 52 yards and one touchdown.

“Just was happy to get out and get a feel for my guys and for how everybody plays,” Patterson said on Wednesday.

But when asked if he feels he is in the lead to be the backup quarterback – he took a moment to answer and after a long pause praised the quarterback room.

“We just have a great bunch of guys. Antonio, his energy is unbelievable. Mason’s obviously been out here for I don’t know four years. And then Trevor’s been around the league for 15 years. So it’s good to have his experience. So a lot of knowledge in that room and a lot of competition every single day, every single week. I don’t belong here if I wouldn’t say I’m in the lead for that. All I can do is put forth my best effort every single day,” Patterson said.

“I think every year going into training camp there’s always a spot for the q-b two. You know this is my fourth training camp. Every year it’s been a battle,” Fine agreed.

But with just one pre-season game remaining Mace has a checklist of what he needs to see from his quarterbacks.

“No matter who’s back there at quarterback [he] needs to move efficiently so we’re look[ing] at that. I thought they did a good job with the reps they had [last game]. You know Mason’s going to be healthier to take more snaps as well. So you just want to see that efficiently moving the ball down the field and making sure we’re getting the right reads,” Mace said.

The Riders will have one more day of training camp before travelling to Edmonton to face the Elks on Saturday.

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