Riders Positional Breakdown – Running Backs & Fullbacks
Published: Monday, Mar 13th 2023, 2:03pm
by Alex Dormuth (@RealAlexD)
Leading up to the CFL Draft, I’ll be looking at the roster put together so far by Saskatchewan Roughriders General Manager Jeremy O’Day. I’ll share my thoughts on each player and how I see that particular unit showing in 2023.
Let’s take a look at the Running Backs and the Fullbacks (listed in alphabetical order).
Albert Awachie – He plays special teams and plays a more traditional Tight End role than he does a Fullback role. I’d love to see a few more plays drawn up for him to be a receiver, sneaking out of the trenches. He’s a role player, but he’s a good one. With a focus this year likely to be on running the ball a bit more consistently, I expect Awachie to return to his blocking role and do well at it in the jumbo packages.
B.J. Emmons – He was with the team to finish the 2022 season and has bounced around NFL practice rosters over the last couple of years. Emmons was the first pick in the USFL Draft last year, but only had a 2.5 yard average for the Tampa Bay Bandits. He’ll have to fight hard for a potential practice roster spot with the Riders in 2023.
Javian Hawkins – Much like Emmons, Hawkins will be fighting for the practice roster in Saskatchewan. He was on the Los Angeles Rams’ PR when they won the Super Bowl, so he does know about winning. The Riders did have to scramble last year when both Jamal Morrow and Frankie Hickson got hurt, so keeping a guy like Hawkins around (or a phone call away) may not be a bad thing.
Frankie Hickson – The Riders nominee for Rookie of the Year last year, Hickson was so fun to watch. He and Jamal Morrow will pick right up where they left off last season as the rotating backs. I sure hope they find a way to commit to the running game this year, instead of abandoning it for the middle 40 minutes of the game like we saw last season. Hickson is set to explode as a star here in Saskatchewan and I look forward to seeing him get more and more reps this year. I’m excited to see him breakout even more in Riderville.
Jace Jordan – Training Camp fodder, could push for a PR spot if he can beat out Emmons and Hawkins. As with any new player, hopefully they come in and light it up and take someone’s job, but don’t bet your mortgage on it.
Bruno LaBelle – Another TE type blocking fullback, LaBelle could make the active roster again if the team implements a lot of jumbo packages in the run game. Like Awachie, I would love to see some plays run with play action to the blockers and catch teams off guard once in a while.
Kienan LaFrance – A Canadian special teams player and depth piece in case of injury. Gotta have guys like that around… but he has never been able to follow up his one great performance in the playoffs for Ottawa 6 seasons ago and truth be told, I’d rather the team draft a running back in May to take that spot on the roster.
Jamal Morrow – Morrow had his breakout CFL season last year, gaining more than 1,000 yards on offence for the Riders. Of course, missing 6 games didn’t help the cause, but he proved that he is an effective CFL Running Back and should be given a lot of work alongside Frankie Hickson in 2023. Morrow will be a big part of the Riders O again and will be a big part of the success that they should have not only on the ground, but catching the ball out of the backfield too. I expect Morrow to be near the top of the leaderboard for yards from scrimmage among running backs in the league.
Overall, it’s pretty much going to be the same group as last year, with one less Fullback. Getting the run game going, AND KEEPING IT GOING, will be the key to the Riders offensive success this season. Morrow and Hickson both looked great last year, but Jason Maas stopped using them for the middle 40 minutes of every single game. This year, I expect that to change with last year’s Running Back’s Coach Kelly Jeffrey now calling plays.
I’m excited for the run game this year, hopefully the new group on the O-Line can pave some big lanes for these guys. It will be key for a successful run game to be consistent and keep the offence on the field.
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