With initial on-field activities wrapping up for the spring ahead of the Rifles’ preseason Canada-U.S.A. tune-up, head coach Geordie Wilson sat down with Darrin Bauming of RiflesFootball.com to answer five pressing questions coming out of spring camp.
Q: Coach, what is the M.O. — not Mike O’Shea… mission objective — of the Rifles’ spring camp?
A: We want to identify, ultimately, our 80-man roster. That’s the first goal. Secondly, we want to get a better look at the rookies, and then set the table for our main camp beginning July 29 so we can hit the ground running.
Q: Speaking of running, in watching spring camp it sure appears like your team can do just that, even with it being so early in the year. In your eyes, coach, what are some of the on-field strengths of the Rifles through the early going?
A: Right now I would say, for our offence, it would definitely be our offensive line. We’re deep and talented there. And I would say on defence, probably, we’re quite athletic at linebacker and defensive end. Much like watching the Saskatoon Hilltops the last few years, it’s been their ends and linebackers who’ve been really athletic and can run. We’ve got a group of players now who can run — they can all run — and they’re long and they’re athletic. Those would probably be the two big groups as far as our strengths on each side of the ball.
Q: First impressions are one thing… Being impressed is another. What’s impressed you the most of your group so far?
A: I’ll say this; I am not saying we’re going to have an All-Canadian receiver or an All-Canadian offensive lineman or whatever. But this is the best team that we’ve ever had from top to bottom — we don’t have any positional weaknesses. It’s just like, there’s no group that stands out at all in a worrisome way. The other thing is, for the first time ever, there’s literally severe competition at all of the position groups. You can just see it.
Q: What does that “severe competition” look like?
A: Put it this way. We’re looking at our offensive line group — and I’ll say this right now, there’s only five starting spots — there’s nine guys we could start. I would be completely comfortable starting any of those nine guys. In our receiver group, we have a dozen to 15 receivers in camp, and say we’re in a five-R set, of those five starters, we’re probably comfortable putting eight or nine of them on the field, no problem. Our two tailbacks, I mean, they’re like 1-A and 1-B. Quarterback, well, clearly Riley Naujoks is our starter, but there is some push behind him which is great to see. There’s a lot of potential there. On the D-line, there eight or nine guys we could easily put on the field. Linebackers, like I’ve said, there’s six of them who are strong. At DB, we have five starters, and then three or four behind them we’ve very comfortable with.