Vet­eran cen­tre is out, but Ottawa’s O-Line de­ter­mined to pro­tect quar­ter­back Tate

Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS - DON BREN­NAN dbren­nan@post­

The big­gest con­cern should be less about how quar­ter­back Drew Tate plays Sun­day af­ter­noon than whether he makes it to the end of the game.

If he ex­its early, there’s prob­a­bly a bet­ter chance that it will be on a cart than a coach’s de­ci­sion.

When Tate makes his first Red­blacks start as the re­place­ment for the in­jured Trevor Har­ris in Mon­treal, it will be be­hind an of­fen­sive line with a new cen­tre and a new guard.

Now, it’s im­por­tant to note that the Ottawa O-line has been no hell this sea­son even when at full strength. As of Friday af­ter­noon, the 30 sacks al­lowed by the Red­blacks was a league high.

It’s sur­pris­ing Har­ris sur­vived as long as he did.

Against the Alou­ettes, Alex Mateas will make his first start as a pro snap­per, fill­ing in for all-star Jon Gott.

Rookie guard Evan John­son will also be mak­ing his first start, ei­ther in Mateas’ va­cated spot to the im­me­di­ate left of the cen­tre, or pos­si­bly to his right.

“The good news is that Mateas has played cen­tre through­out his col­lege ca­reer, he had mul­ti­ple starts at the Di­vi­sion 1 level in NCAA, and he’s been here now for awhile, too, and he’s taken lots of reps at cen­tre,” head coach Rick Camp­bell said Friday. “Pretty com­fort­ing. s“We’re ob­vi­ously go­ing to miss Jon, but we seem to not miss a beat at all in prac­tice, with (Mateas) be­ing able to snap and make the line calls and all the things cen­tres have to do. He stepped in and did a great job in prac­tice and I imag­ine it will be just the same in the game.”

Still, Mateas is no Gott, the cen­tre for every game in Red­blacks his­tory. How long his stint on the side­lines will be, no­body knows — or at least no­body is say­ing. But it’s never a good sign when a guy who gives the ball to the QB has a cast on one of his hands.

“He’s hold­ing out hope it’s not go­ing to be long, and so he’s go­ing to try to get healed up and take it week by week,” Camp­bell said of Gott, whose Iron­man run lasted 66 games. “It’s sad to see that streak end, but at the same time we’ve still got a ways to go here, and he’ll be back when he’s back.”

Camp­bell has faith in John­son, a ver­sa­tile 23-year old who can play any po­si­tion on the line.

“He’s got the right tem­per­a­ment, he’s ath­letic and he’s smart,” Camp­bell said of the 6-foot-4, 280-pounder from Saskatchewan who was the Red­blacks’ first-round pick in 2017.

While John­son prac­tised on the left side at the start of the week, there were hints he could flip spots with right guard Nolan MacMil­lan. One of them came from right tackle Ja­son Lau­zonSe­quin.

“Me and Evan have got a re­ally good re­la­tion­ship,” said Lau­zonSe­quin, who added play­fully: “He can do some calls and help me.”

Mean­while, left tackle SirVin­cent Rogers tried to min­i­mize the switch at cen­tre.

“I don’t think it changes our ap­proach,” he said. “Of course, Jon Gott be­ing a peren­nial all­star, be­ing the best cen­tre in this league, you def­i­nitely al­ways want him there.”

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