One of the biggest question marks for the Riders in 2021 is their offensive line.
Heading into the season, the front line of the offence was expected to be one of the team’s strengths. Brendon LaBatte was expected to anchor a line lead by the likes of Evan Johnson, Dan Clark and Terran Vaughn.
Instead, LaBatte has decided to sit out the 2021 season. His reasons are completely logical, there’s no debating that.
So, the Riders are at a point where a good portion of their offensive line will now have to be rebuilt since the last time we saw them on the field. How that works out will go a long way in determining how the team will be this season.
One name that has garnered some attention by people much smarter than me, and my fellow Green Cast co-host John Fraser, is Melfort, Saskatchewan born Logan Ferland, a former member of the Regina Thunder junior football team.
Ferland joined the team in 2019 as a regional practice roster player when he was still a member of the Thunder and has been growing ever since. The discussion around Ferland is hard to ignore at this point.
He may not be a starter this season, but Ferland may be another Saskatchewan-born offensive lineman to eventually start for the green and white in the not too distant future.
“Logan is a kid that has grown leaps and bounds every year. We liked him a couple of years ago as a junior player,” said head coach Craig Dickenson.
“All he did [during the pandemic lost season] is lift, study and it looks like eat protein cause he got big and strong. As long as he can mentally pick it up, he’s got a chance to be a good lineman in this league.”
Locally born offensive linemen are nothing new for the Riders. LaBatte is of course the most high profile in recent memory, but Ben Heenan, Patrick Neufeld, and Dan Clark have all taken their place along the offensive line with the likes of Brett Boyko and Mattland Reilly waiting in the wings to be the next.
For Ferland, Clark is the guy he’s trying to emulate the most. Both are former Regina Thunder alumni who have never played in USports or the NCAA.
“(Clark) gave that real possibility that you can make that jump from junior to CFL,” said Ferland.
“I still continue to look to him and he’s there all the time. He knows this game like the back of his hand. He’s a huge help.”
The university or American college route never interested Ferland. He’s more of a hands-on learner who wanted to work on becoming a carpenter while playing football at the same time. Something that wouldn’t be an option through the traditional student-athlete route.
That’s why he decided to stick with the Thunder through his entire eligibility rather than going off to a post-secondary school as many other players have.
During his final season with the Thunder in 2019, Ferland practiced with both the Riders and the Thunder and played junior football games at the same time. Watching previous players do the same thing, Ferland thought it was something he could do, but now he admits he doesn’t miss working with both teams at once.
“It’s a totally different game, you’re working the same muscles twice as normal and two different playbooks, both physically and mentally,” Ferland said. “By the end of both seasons, you’re exhausted.”
For this year and beyond, Ferland can focus on the green and white while working to earn a starting role with the Riders.