Regina Rams Day 5: Slotbacks Analysis

Day 5 Photos

After Monday’s practice which saw the heat take its toll on a number of players, Tuesday’s practice was scaled back considerably to just a 90-minute session with no pads. We scaled back the camp report accordingly, but return today in full force with an update on Wednesday’s session.

And Wednesday’s practice will be the last one of the three-hour variety.

“We’re trying to balance a couple of things right now, with the first being the constant input of more schemes on both sides of the ball,” Rams head coach Steve Bryce said. “And we’re also trying to get guys back from injury after getting after it real hard the first three days of practice.”

At one point, 11 players were out of practice with injuries of varying levels of severity. With that in mind, the players have been given most of Thursday off. They’ll have position meetings before a session in the University of Regina’s pool, which will be a welcome relief after several tough, hot practices.

Bryce noted that he had a chance to focus on a pair of defensive linemen in Thomas Lill and Grey McKen. He knows what starting nose tackle Bryce McKinnon brings to the table, but was impressed enough with both Lill and McKen to say that both players have reinvented themselves athletically since the conclusion of last season and expect them to be much larger contributors for the Rams this year.

Bryce also talked about the progress of the offensive line, which is tasked with replacing a pair of fifth-year starters in Kyle Paterson and Aaron Picton.

“It’s a young line with a tough order of finding guys to step up with Aaron and Kyle now graduated, but they’re coming along,” Bryce said. “Lyndon Smith has looked amazing at times and Jeremy Zver has been outstanding on his outside zone blocking. It’s a juggling act to find the right combination of guys, but we’re hoping we can get that done.”

For each day of practice leading up to the Aug. 25 exhibition game against the University of Calgary in Medicine Hat, we’ll take a brief look at the on-field session as well as a more in-depth look at one of the positions. Today we take a closer look at the slotbacks –

As mentioned a couple of days ago, the team took a hit in the offseason with the injury to Mitch Thompson that will keep him out of action in 2016. Thompson had 38 catches last season and led the Rams with 526 receiving yards and five touchdown catches but with three experienced returners, the team expects to absorb the loss of the talented fourth-year receiver in stride.

Those three returners are all projected starters, including veterans Mitchell Picton and Riley Wilson. Picton had a team-high 41 catches last year for 503 yards, while Wilson was third on the Rams with 28 receptions and finished the season with 341 yards and three touchdown catches. They’re expected to again play major roles in the offence this year, while second-year slotback Ryan Schienbein has had a great start to camp and is expected to see a dramatic increase in playing time. Schienbein only had three catches last year as a rookie out of Regina’s Balfour Collegiate, but led the Rams in both punt returns and kickoff returns.

Bryce has also been quick to point out that former Okanagan Sun receiver Thomas Huber has been fitting well into the new offence. Huber was a CJFL All-Canadian last year as a kicker but was also an impact slotback for the Sun, finishing the year with 28 catches for 424 yards and three touchdowns.

Kyle Moortgat, Jordan Wyonzek, and Colton Friesen are listed on the depth chart behind Picton at Y receiver. One of the three Cochrane, Alta. products on the team, Moortgat got into six conference games last year and recorded his first career reception in the team’s Week 7 game against Calgary. Wyonzek is in his second year with the program following a few seasons away from football after playing at Campbell Collegiate in Regina, while Friesen is a rookie out of Winston Knoll Collegiate and has caught the eye of the coaching staff on several occasions already this camp.

Behind Wilson on the depth chart at R receiver is a pair of receivers in their second season with the Rams. Josh Tipton played running back and even some quarterback during his high school career with Belmont Secondary in Langford, B.C., but is in his second year with the Rams as a receiver. Tipton has a full five years of CIS eligibility remaining after redshirting last year, and Bryce said he’s a good route runner and has looked good at times over the first bit of camp. Taylor Crassweller is in his second year with the Rams and his third year of eligibility. He played two seasons for the University of Minnesota Crookston after graduating from Campbell in 2011.

The Rams are also excited about the potential of rookie Terrell Mildenberger – a LeBoldus product – but he’s been limited so far in camp due to injury.

Source: Regina Rams Athletics

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