Regina Rams scrimmage report: RB analysis

After a week of practices, Saturday saw the Rams switch gears and play a controlled scrimmage that pitted the offence against the defence. The teams played most of the scrimmage with possessions starting from the 35-yard line, but mixed in some red zone work late with possessions starting from the 15.

The offence had four pass completions in excess of 20 yards, including two from Noah Picton to Riley Wilson early in the scrimmage and a 21-yard pass from rookie Seb Britton to newcomer Khalid Kornegay for a touchdown. Britton also hit Thomas Huber for a solid completion during his second turn at the controls of the offence.

Other touchdown passes included a Picton toss to Ryan Schienbein on the first possession, a Tyler Vieira throw to a wide-open Jens Johnson from 15 yards out, and a Britton pass to Jordan Wyonzekon a nice play action. Schienbein later made a brilliant catch at the back of the end zone on a throw by Vieira.

On the ground, rookie running back Brayden Wagg found a hole in traffic for a 15-yard touchdown run and Atlee Simon punched one in from one yard out.

Defensive highlights included an early pass knockdown on the line of scrimmage by Eric Wicijowskiand a late sack by Kaiden Jones on rookie quarterback Blake Scherle following a low snap.

“I felt like there were a lot of mistakes and mental errors over the course of scrimmage, especially in terms of personnel on special teams,” head coach Steve Bryce said. “Overall I thought the offence looked pretty crisp, and defensively I think we were a bit better than we might have appeared to be. There were a couple of plays that went for significant yardage that could have been called sacks.”

Leading up to the Aug. 25 exhibition game against the University of Calgary in Medicine Hat, we’ll take a brief look at some of the on-field sessions as well as a more in-depth look at one of the positions. Today we take a closer look at the running backs –

Talking purely in terms of quantity, one of thinner positions for the Rams this year is at running back as only three players – Atlee Simon, Blake Anaka, and Brayden Wagg – are in camp.

But Simon, still with three seasons of CIS eligibility remaining, has posted scintillating numbers since taking over as the team’s starting back midway through his first year on campus. He piled up 524 rushing yards in his first season, and last year led Canada West with 155 carries and 938 yards despite missing a game due to injury. With 1462 rushing yards in his first two seasons, Simon is within reach of second (Graham Mosiondz, 1927 yards) and third (Adrian Charles, 1883 yards) on the school’s all-time list and is well on pace to eventually threaten Neal Hughes as the U of R’s all-time leader.

Beyond the numbers, the coaching staff is continually impressed at Simon’s uncanny ability to make plays on the field.

“Atlee is one of those special players that just don’t come around that often,” Bryce said. “He’s such a smooth runner and he’s got that ability to make bad plays look like that’s how we wrote it up. Atlee has already done great things in a Rams uniform and I expect another great season from him this year.”

Anaka is in his third year with the program and his second year of eligibility after redshirting the 2014 season. He might be undersized – we’ve got him listed as 5-3 and 155 lbs. – but he’s a tenacious player and drew into the lineup for the final three home games of the season last year, getting his first two carries against Calgary and returning three punts in the final two games, including a nice 20-yard return against Saskatchewan.

“Blake has a ton of heart. You just can’t measure his heart,” Bryce said. “He plays above his physical stature and he’s the kind of guy you love to have on your team.”

Wagg was an all-star quarterback for Campbell Collegiate last season, but joins the Rams as a running back after leading the Schwann Conference in rushing yards in 2015. Moving to the CIS level from high school is a big enough jump and a new element is added when a player is also changing positions, so Wagg is the type of player you’d normally see take a redshirt season – but with Simon and Anaka the only other running backs on the roster it might not be a stretch to see Wagg in the lineup this season. Bryce has lauded the quickness, vision, and balance he brings to the field.

– University of Regina Rams Football Club

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