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Here's what Wes Cates thinks about the Riders pre-season and Corey Mace's first games as head coach

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CTV News’ Lee Jones spoke with former Rider Wes Cates to discuss the highlights of the team’s first two performances and how the green and white performed under rookie head coach Corey Mace.

Lee Jones

Welcome to another year but X's and O's with West Cates once again joining us. Welcome back, Wes.

Wes Cates

“Thanks Lee, excited to be back and it seems like Riderville is excited about this season. I don't think I've ever seen Rider fans this pumped up in the pre-season about what's to come. So yeah, feeling good.”

Yeah, they won both pre-season games, although that kind of happened last year, so we'll just not talk about that. But let's get your opinion on the Corey Mace regime. We've had two preseason games, a training camp that's almost complete. What are you seeing?

“I really see a team that's rallying around a great leader, right? I think Corey is a guy that's played. He obviously has a demeanor about him that the players definitely are attracted to. The fans seem to love him when he's out and about in the community. People seem to [have] nothing but good comments there and even Rider management seems to love him. So everything is looking good for Corey Mace. I think that the Rider team with the last couple of seasons that we've had, obviously there's nowhere to go but up. So he's in a good spot. And I think right now he's doing everything right. So let's just hope he continues.”

Now of course, a lot of decisions have to be made as we are in the pre-season and training camp. But everyone wants to talk about quarterback[s]. Trevor Harris is your starter, we know that going into week one, but Shea Patterson and Mason Fine? Second pre-season game Mason Fine did throw a touchdown – albeit it was a defense that set him up – put him in the 15 yard line with that turnover. Shea threw for more yards on less throws. So, I know it's going to take some time here. But who do you think should be number two?

“I mean, it's tough because Mason's always playing fine. I mean, he's been there. He's been a good backup for the Riders for over two years now. I think he has definitely done what he's needed to do to keep that number two spot. You talked about the touchdown he threw against Edmonton and I thought it wasn't the best ball. Meyers went up and made a great play. But we see Shea Patterson in there – just a bigger guy. We know he's more athletic and can run the ball and do the short yardage, third down conversions and he's been getting it down field and putting the ball where it needs to be as well. So if I'm looking at how they both looked in this pre-season, I would say Shea has got a bit of the upper hand. But how that's playing out in practice and day to day, every rep, only the coaches really know and understand to that level. But I would kind of lean towards Shea in my personal opinion only from what I'm seeing in pre-season.”

You mentioned the practice reps, we all focus on the preseason numbers, but how important is those everyday practices in training camp to make these decisions?

“They're huge. I mean really Lee, there's only so many reps you can get in the game. So what the fans are seeing – what we're seeing – is just a little bit of the sample that the coaches are getting. I think that obviously you want to see a player go into the pre-season competitions going against another team and obviously play well, not get shook by the lights or whatever. Just that live action. But the practice reps, taking the right steps, making the right reads, going through all the proper motions is what coaches want to see day in and day out. So I think the practice reps are definitely more important throughout camp, but you want to make sure that guys aren't scared of the lights essentially when they go into these preseason games. So, we'll see kind of what the coaches conclude here. I guess a few more practices to go before preseason is truly over.”

Anybody sticking out as far as newcomers are concerned – in your mind?

“Well, I gotta love Clint Ratkovich. The “Rat Dog” on Instagram, right? He's an American playing the fullback position, which is exactly how I got into the league. I think he's a versatile athlete. He's leading the team in rushing yards. This pre-season, so he's doing everything right. I think he's just a guy I'm rooting for obviously we've seen a lot from defensive players. They've done a lot of turnovers and obviously the head coach that is leading that defense and [he’s a] defensive coordinator by nature, so I think there's a few guys that have stood out to me on D but if there's one guy that that's kind of jumping off the page, its Clint Ratkovich.”

That defense did a lot of turnovers knows through pre-season. Definitely a positive for sure. We'll hear about the cuts soon – and next week, X's and O's. We'll talk about who's on the team and of course, the opening week versus the Edmonton Elks in Edmonton.

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