Cameron Judge laid the gavel down in last season.
The jury was out on Judge after a tumultuous rookie season in which the UCLA product arrived late to training camp, played in just three games prior to suffering a shoulder injury and Tweeted he was stepping away from football in September to focus on an off-field opportunity.
It seemed possible Judge’s promising CFL career was going to be over after one short season. But the Montreal native returned to the Riders in 2018 and started games at middle linebacker in Chris Jones’ defence.
“You could tell he was getting better every week last year,” current head coach Craig Dickenson said.
Judge made 41 tackles, two sacks and forced one fumble in 18 games in 2018. He turned the promise showed as a prospect when Saskatchewan selected Judge in the first round, second overall during the 2017 CFL draft into production.
“We’ve increased the workload for him this camp and he’s grasped it and run with it. We expect him to be playing a lot of WILL linebacker, playing probably two specials teams and being a guy we can move all over the field,” Dickenson said.
It’s clear Dickenson and the Riders believe Judge can be a ratio-changing defender. The athleticism is certainly there. At UCLA’s pro day, Judge measured six-foot-one and weighed 220-pounds, running a 4.50 40-yard time, 6.69 3-cone, 10-foot, one-inch broad jump, 36.5-inch vertical leap and 19 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. That’s a complete package of speed, agility, explosiveness and power.
“He’s always been very athletic, but you can just see he’s understanding the scheme better and he’s playing faster because of that. He’s also more comfortable with us,” Dickenson said.
“He’s had a great camp and we expect to have a good season with him.”
While Judge was at UCLA Scott White was the special teams coordinator and linebackers coach. White coached star Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill at Central Washington.
“Cam is every bit as good as Adam who was more of a natural, instinctive player, but physically Cam is better, he’s bigger, faster and more athletic,” White said prior to the CFL draft in 2017.
“That’s where they’re most different. Cam has a lot of upside and he’s the better athlete of the two.”