Regina native Evan Johnson replaces Brendon LaBatte at left guard for Riders

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant /

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have given an early indication of who will replace future Hall of Fame offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte at left guard this season.

According to Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post, Evan Johnson has taken up the left guard spot that was manned by LaBatte for almost a decade in Riderville.

Johnson signed with the Riders in February 2021 following three seasons with the Ottawa Redblacks. The former first-round pick out of the University of Saskatchewan said it was a “dream come true” to play for his hometown team and he’s needed more now than originally anticipated.

LaBatte recently decided to sit out the 2021 season, citing COVID-19 restrictions and a desire to spend more time with his family as the reasons why. He hasn’t retired — he intends to return in 2022 — but has left a gaping hole along the offensive line.

LaBatte appeared in only five regular season games due to injury in 2019. The left guard spot was manned by Philip Blake and Dariusz Bladek in his absence, both of whom have since joined the Toronto Argonauts via free agency.

McCormick also reported that Brett Boyko has taken over at right guard, a position that was vacated by Dakoda Shepley when he departed for the NFL last year. Longtime NFL offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio received first reps at right tackle following the retirement of Takoby Cofield.

It’s still very early, of course — today was just the first day of training camp. Still, it’s intriguing to get an early look at how the Riders are looking to address some key losses along the offensive line heading into the 2021 season.