Jeremy O’Day provides perspective on Riders’ backup quarterbacks: ‘We feel good about Mason Fine’

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day spoke highly of rookie quarterback Mason Fine when asked about his team’s quarterback depth heading into 2022.

“We feel good about Mason Fine. I think we only have a small sample size, but we’ve done a lot of work to get him here. He was on our negotiation list for a number of years and when you have someone on your negotiation list, you don’t just throw him on and then see what he looks like at the end of his career — you follow him throughout his career,” said O’Day at his season-ending press conference.

“He just did a great job for us in a limited opportunity. It was unfortunate we didn’t get preseason games for us to see him a little bit more, but we feel good about him. … We’ll always explore opportunities to make our team better so if we feel like there’s a quarterback that intrigues us, then we’ll definitely explore that, but we do feel good about Mason.”

Fine was born in the tiny town of Peggs, Okla. before becoming a prolific passer at nearby Locust Grove High School. He was recruited by the University of North Texas and quickly became their starter, finishing his college career in 2019 with 12,237 passing yards, 91 touchdowns, and 32 interceptions.

The undersized passer saw action in Saskatchewan’s final regular season game, completing five-of-nine pass attempts for 64 yards. He remains under contract for next season along with Cody Fajardo and Paxton Lynch.

The status of Lynch, a former first-round NFL draft pick, is in doubt given that he remains unvaccinated and would be unable to reenter the country under the federal government’s current regulations. O’Day recently told the media that he does not plan to have any unvaccinated players under contract in 2022.

Isaac Harker, the team’s primary backup in 2021, is a pending free agent. O’Day said the Riders are still evaluating Harker’s status but only mentioned the 26-year-old when asked specifically about him.

“He (Harker) hasn’t had a huge body of work that we’ve been able to evaluate. He’s only played in a couple of games for us and it’s just the fact that Cody’s been pretty healthy over the last two years, which is great,” said O’Day.

“We’ll still evaluate it. We’ve got a little bit more of a sample size on Isaac. He’s a very motivated person and wants to be really good and works very hard on it. We’ll certainly consider all that before we make any decisions there.”

Harker has made two career CFL starts, both of which came in meaningless regular season finales. He has completed 70-of-97 career pass attempts for 706 yards, zero touchdowns and five interceptions. He has also carried the ball five times for 19 yards.

O’Day realizes that having two effective quarterbacks is critical to achieving success in the CFL, particularly with the 2022 Grey Cup set to take place at Mosaic Stadium in Regina.

“I think you always want to have two good quarterbacks. I think more times than not, teams that have had two good quarterbacks, it’s been beneficial for them. They certainly haven’t looked back and said, ‘I wish we didn’t have an experienced guy’ behind their starter,” said O’Day.

“There’s been a lot examples and in particular a lot of them here from when we ran into problems with not having a good backup plan.”

Some notable pending free agent backup quarterbacks around the CFL include Jake Maier, Michael O’Connor, and Dane Evans.

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