CFL Pass

Taman: In a year of change, Collaros is still the key

BREAKING NEWS: This column has returned for another year. I just heard a loud moan across the province, as people would prefer to view an additional pre-season game.

Anyway, what is new in the CFL since we last graced this space in November? Let’s see …

• Five of the nine teams have a new head coach. Unfortunately, that’s not abnormal.

• Global players have entered the scene! Hmmm … interesting.

• A new collective-bargaining agreement has been signed, with some constant themes of partnership, player safety, revenue sharing, etc. The bottom line is that no games were missed, which is great.

• Five teams start the year with a different starting quarterback. This will be interesting to follow.

Change is constant in the CFL, so none of the above qualifies as earth-shattering news.

At this point of the year, prior to Game 1, most if not all teams are excited and optimistic about the prospect of a successful season ahead.

Phrases like “this is the best personnel I’ve seen in a camp in a long time” or the classic “we have some hard decisions ahead” are frequently uttered.

Before too long, the mood will change as losses will pile up for some teams, and those glowing quotes about training camp will long be forgotten.

The grind of an 18-game season begins. It is like a rollercoaster ride for most involved. Some ups, some downs, and some strange and unexpected turns await. Yes, it’s the same as reading a Rob Vanstone column.

Now, about those Saskatchewan Roughriders …

A new head coach (Craig Dickenson) has arrived, a new general manager (Jeremy O’Day) is running the show, and, as always, player personnel moves have been made.

A strong push was made for Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, but that deal fell a plane ride away from possibly happening.

In retrospect, the additions of defensive tackle Micah Johnson and others were not a bad result of saving the dough without maxing out on a quarterback.

Oh yeah, that quarterback topic again …

Last year, it was stated that the Roughriders had put all of their gambling chips on the table, banking on Zach Collaros. There were mixed results, but the Roughriders did post a 12-6 record and played host to a playoff game — one that Collaros was forced to miss due to a concussion.

If Collaros is again sidelined this year, watching the last game of the season, methinks that would not be a good thing.

The offence will be better, but can the defence be as dominant as it was last year while contributing points as well? The odds say no.

However, that is why they play the games. Who really knows? Week 1 of 18 will provide the first answers to many questions.

• • •

Speaking of Week 1, here are the predictions. Vanstone has also offered his thoughts, for some reason.

SASKATCHEWAN at HAMILTON (Thursday, 5:30 p.m.)

Taman: Saskatchewan gets off to a good start. Roughriders by six.

Vanstone:Saskatchewan’s William Powell will rush for 150-plus yards, and it will just be enough. Roughriders by two.

MONTREAL at EDMONTON (Friday, 7 p.m.)

Taman: Edmonton is out to erase memories of last year’s last-place finish. Eskimos by 11.

Vanstone: Brendan Taman’s cat could make this prediction. Eskimos by 31. (We are giving Brendan far too much credit by presuming that he could successfully recruit a cat. Unfortunately, the aging players who Brendan habitually signed didn’t have nine lives, CFL-wise.)

OTTAWA at CALGARY (Saturday, 5 p.m.)

Taman: Calgary is Calgary. West dominates early. Stampeders by nine.

Vanstone: Is Brendan’s 34-year-old cat available for this one, too? Calgary is the defending champion. Ottawa’s offence is barely recognizable from last year. Stampeders by 14.

WINNIPEG at B.C. (Saturday, 8 p.m.)

Taman: Winnipeg makes it a four-way tie for first place in the West. Blue Bombers by three.

Vanstone: Mike Reilly’s first game of his second stint with the Lions will be a huge success. Count on him for 400 aerial yards and at least three touchdowns. Reilly and Duron Carter will get along famously. Lions roar, by four.

• • •

We have a new feature this year: Hero and zero.

This will be a beefier item once the games begin. In the meantime, and in between time …

Hero: Myself, for agreeing to do this column again. This is the first readable Leader-Post sports column since November.

Zero: Rob Vanstone, just because.

(Taman’s Take appears weekly.)