Glen Suitor knows a lot more about TV broadcasting than he does about farming, but the former Roughriders safety would be willing to learn if it meant an all-Saskatchewan offensive line playing in Regina.
“What is a farming implement or tool or truck or tractor — I’m way out of my expertise here — but what is one that just sort of grinds up the wheat and takes up tons and tons of real estate, because I’m thinking of nicknames,” Suitor laughed.
That implement is called a thresher and the CFL colour guy may have to familiarize himself with the farming metaphor ahead of the 2021 season as the Riders have begun to load up on local talent up front.
Host Derek Taylor floated the dream scenario of a Saskatchewan Roughriders offensive line made up entirely of Saskatchewan natives during Suitor’s regular appearance on The SportsCage and the idea isn’t entirely far-fetched.
All-stars Brendon LaBatte and Dan Clark remain entrenched on the interior, 2020 first-rounder Mattland Riley was a standout for the Huskies and free agency saw the arrival of local tackles Evan Johnson and Brett Boyko. With former Regina Thunder Logan Ferland under contract, the Riders could even dress a local sixth man.
Of that group, Suitor is most excited to see Brett Boyko live up to his potential. The much-maligned tackle was cut by the B.C. Lions after just 15 games and led the league in pressures allowed per game in 2019 according to Taylor, but Suitor still has high expectations.
“We all know what he did in college. He’s a guy that I believe can become an all-star very quickly,” he predicted.
“I make the comparison with Dakoda Shepley a little bit. When he started, it was a little bit bumpy for him in the first few games that he played, but we all knew when we talk to his coaches from high school and his coaches from college that he was going to become a great player.”
Shepley is now in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers but Boyko has had a much longer road to get to the Riders.
A top-rated prospect in the 2015 CFL Draft class, Boyko fell to the Lions in the second round because of well-founded concerns over his NFL opportunities. The UNLV product spent parts of four seasons with the Eagles and Chargers as an undrafted free agent, mostly on practice squads. He played in one regular-season contest in 2017.
The 28-year old signed with the Lions after a stint with the San Diego Fleet of the AAF and was expected to be an instant contributor for the team. He would go on to start just five game, four at right tackle and one at left tackle, while becoming a lightning rod for criticism on a dreadful Lions offensive line.
Given how long the Lions waited to acquire his services and his high grade as a prospect, most anticipated that Boyko would be given every opportunity to redeem himself in Vancouver. Instead he was sent packing, but Suitor believes he’ll redeem himself at home.
“I wasn’t worried about a bumpy start, I really wasn’t. I think that’s normal for a lot of guys that go through the NFL combine and then come back. They’ve got to get their mind back to, ‘I’m all in, this is my new team and new league’,” Suitor explained.
“He played college ball in the States, so he isn’t used to that yard off the ball so that’s going to take some time too. Once he gets that down, I think he’s going to be a great football player.”
Despite the abundance of homegrown talent, Rider Nation shouldn’t get too excited about the prospect of an all-Saskie front. The team is still projected to start Americans at both tackle spots with Takoby Cofield and Terran Vaughn on the roster and the high price of Canadian lineman makes it unlikely any team rolls with five national starters in the penny-pinching era of 2021.
Still, Suitor is a big proponent of building from within the community.
“I love it when any team in the CFL is picking their local players. Now, you have to start with talent, you can’t just do it as a marketing ploy, but if a guy has the skills and you can get him and he’s a Saskatchewan kid, all the power to you,” Suitor raved.
“It just gets more fans in the stands and gets people excited about the homegrown talent.”