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Riders prepare for expanded CFL Combine in Edmonton

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The Canadian Football League’s (CFL) National Combine will take place from March 22-26, 2023 at the Commonwealth Stadium Field House in Edmonton, Alta.

Approximately 100 global and national prospects will participate in the new expanded format that will feature practices run by CFL coaches, that includes newly hired Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterbacks coach, Kelly Jeffrey.

This combine was preceded by the CFL Invitational Combine that took place earlier this month. Both have now replaced the three regional combines the league held in previous years. It has also expanded to being a five-day event this year.

“It’s an interesting thing. It’s kind of a combination of the combine and the Senior Bowl that you would see in the states. When we talked about it, we kind of talked about [how] we were doing too many regional combines, how should we change it?” explained Jeremy O’Day, Saskatchewan Roughriders GM and vice president of football operations.

“They’re going against, you know, the best competition in the draft. But I think what’s nice about it is that they have to learn a little bit of concepts and plays. See how they get coached and see how they compete,” he added.

“I think it’s a nice change up. It allows the coaches to do the actual drills that they would do with their guys and actually use the terminology they would use. This gives us a little more realistic view of how the guy is going to want to take the coaching and is he capable of doing the drills,” said Craig Dickenson, Roughriders head coach.

The event helps teams scout players that are eligible for the 2023 CFL Draft in May but O’Day admitted the coaching staff does not rely entirely on the combine results.

“They can improve or lower their stock rates. They move up or down, they really do, and the grades change from watching the film and then going through the combine. They key is not to get too carried away or put too much weight on it, unless it’s a really bad time or their strength isn’t there,” said O’Day.

However, O’Day remained tight lipped over what the Roughriders will be looking for ahead of the draft.

“I think our approach is something we’re probably going to keep to ourselves before we get into the draft. [However], I feel like there’s some good depth in special teams and defensive line,” he said.

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“We’re really early in the process here of evaluating all the players with our coaching staff and personnel department just evaluating guys on tape. This is obviously a big part of coming to the combine and seeing their measurable. Our strategy [at the draft] usually is to try and take the best available, but obviously if you’re strong in that position then you may make a concession to take different players. We haven’t determined if we’re going offence or defence because we’re just so early in the process.”

However, with the offensive line struggles the Roughriders had last season, the importance of finding up and coming Canadian talent for the o-line was addressed.

“I think it’s important for everyone but I think in the draft’s past offensive linemen, they’re a big makeup of your roster. Most teams are going to play with three [Canadians], some play with four. So just the fact you have to have that many starters and have to have backups. I think there’s a huge emphasis on offensive linemen in the draft. It’s a huge part of the success or not the success of teams and a big part of our Canadian ratio,” said O’Day.

The first two days of the combine will feature medical checks, measurements, and athletic testing. The final three days will be for on-field practice.

“It’s certainly going to be fun to watch the coaches coach and going to be fun to see how these players take the coaching. We’re going to be able to evaluate not only physically but how they are mentally. Do they appear like they can win quickly, the scheme and techniques that the CFL coaches are teaching?” asked Dickenson.

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