Positional changes all about depth for Roughriders head coach Chris Jones

By Arielle Zerr
May 31, 2016 - 5:45pm

No one was as surprised as Tim Agbaje when he found out he would practice with the offensive line Tuesday.

After all, Agbaje is a career defensive lineman.

“I was like ‘oh boy.’ The first thing I said was ‘oh boy,’” Agbaje said after training camp on Tuesday.

It’s part of a larger trend in camp. More than half a dozen players have been taking reps in positions they may have never played before.

Take Kevin Francis as another example. The Roughriders took the offensive tight end in the supplemental draft, surrendering its third round pick in next year’s entry draft to land him. Francis spent his college days lining up with the offensive line and running routes as a tight end, but with the Riders, he’s been spending time as a linebacker.

The switch however, wasn’t as shocking to Francis as it was to Agbaje.

“Knowing Chris Jones, I kind of expected it,” Francis said with a small chuckle. “When I got here I just embraced it and went along with it.”

Francis hasn’t played defence since high school, when he spent time as an outside linebacker and safety. Coincidentally, that’s where the Riders have been working him out as well.

“I was excited, I was completely excited when I found out I was going to play defence,” he said. “Wherever I was going to play I was going to be excited, but especially defence.”

Francis also spent significant time on special teams in college, which he thinks is something that’s helping him out on defence now. And head coach Chris Jones is noticing it too.

“He’s a good player, and if you watch his special team film, he flies around,” Jones said.

“He does a really good job in coverage, he’s a good tackler, he’s willing to run to the football, so I think it’s a tailor made position for him.”

Along with Francis and Agbaje, Jordan Reaves, A.C. Leonard, Tre’von Armstead and Marvin Golding are all listed in positions different from what they may have played before.

It may seem counterintuitive to some, but there’s a sound motivation for Jones as to why he’s shifting players around. He wants his players to be versatile, and wants them to be able to fill in when an injury happens and the pressure is on.

“You’re building depth within your roster and not necessarily on the (practice roster). It’s too late when you lose a game,” Jones said.

It’s something that Jones started doing last year in Edmonton and has brought with him to Saskatchewan. In fact, last year Eddie Steele, who traditionally plays defensive tackle, started two games on the offensive line after an injury.

“Then all of the sudden (offensive line coach Mike Scheper) didn’t want to give him back, he’d like to have kept him on the offensive line if he could. So it’s one of those things, I think the more that you can do, especially with the small CFL roster, the better your team is.”

Training Camp Notes:

Justin Capicciotti, Jeff Knox Jr., John Chiles and newcomer Jonathan Newsome were all absence from this morning’s practice. Head coach Chris Jones said they are nicked up and hopes they’ll be back in a day or two.

The timing is still there between Rob Bagg and Darian Durant. They pair completed a beautiful 30+ yard pass that had the crowd cheering.

Recently re-signed Xavier Fulton dominated his one on one match-ups.

 

Email azerr@rawlco.com

Twitter @arielle_zerr

Roughriders receivers and DBs square off on Day 4 of training camp

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