MES­SAM DEAL AN­OTHER SIGN OF THE WIN-NOW MEN­TAL­ITY

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - SPORTS - ROB VANSTONE rvan­stone@post­media.com twit­ter.com/rob­van­stone

Last Fri­day’s col­umn, which is suit­able for fram­ing, opined that the Chris Jones-led Saskatchewan Roughriders are mir­ror­ing the method­ol­ogy of Bren­dan Ta­man.

How pre­scient those words, so care­fully cho­sen, proved to be.

On Tues­day, the Roughriders an­nounced the sign­ings of full­back Spencer Moore, de­fen­sive tackle Zack Evans and cen­tre Dan Clark — all of whom orig­i­nally joined the CFL team when Ta­man was its gen­eral man­ager.

On Wed­nes­day, the Roughriders an­nounced the ad­di­tions of line­backer Sam Hurl (who was among Ta­man’s draftees in 2012) and run­ning back Jerome Mes­sam (who was signed by Ta­man in 2014).

The lat­est trans­ac­tions re­in­force the afore­men­tioned col­umn, which noted that the Roughriders’ re­cent em­pha­sis on the ac­qui­si­tion and re­ten­tion of CFL veter­ans was highly Ta­manesque.

Jones, the team’s cur­rent head coach/GM, has pur­sued a re­turn to re­spectabil­ity while adding proven com­modi­ties such as Mes­sam, de­fen­sive ends Charleston Hughes and Wil­lie Jef­fer­son, re­ceivers Duron Carter, Bakari Grant and Chad Owens, quar- ter­backs Kevin Glenn (since re­leased) and Zach Col­laros, of­fen­sive line­men Travis Bond and Peter Dyakowski, cor­ner­back Jovon John­son and de­fen­sive half­back Ed Gainey.

The ex­pec­ta­tion when Jones ar­rived was that he, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with as­sis­tant vice-pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions and player per­son­nel John Mur­phy, would fo­cus on player re­cruit­ment and devel­op­ment.

How­ever, if you ex­am­ine the com­po­si­tion of the Roughriders’ ros­ter, it is clear that the cur­rent regime’s M.O. is com­pa­ra­ble to that of Ta­man.

That is sim­ply an ob­ser­va­tion, not a crit­i­cism.

Ta­man, after all, stocked — and stacked — the 2013 Roughriders with es­tab­lished CFLers who ul­ti­mately de­liv­ered a land­mark home-field Grey Cup victory.

Evans, Clark, Moore, Hurl, guard Bren­don LaBatte (an­other Ta­man sign­ing) and re­ceiver Rob Bagg (who was brought to Saskatchewan by Eric Till­man) are the only cur­rent mem­bers of the team with ties to the 2013 edi­tion.

In 2017, the Roughriders were one de­fen­sive stop away from re­turn­ing to the Grey Cup game.

With that in mind, the future is Nov. 25, when the 106th Grey Cup game is to be played in Ed­mon­ton.

Oh, and a home play­off game — the Roughriders’ first since 2013 — would also be a pro­gres­sive step.

Hence the re­cent moves in­volv­ing 30-some­things such as Mes- sam and Hughes, and the woo­ing of re­ceiver Adar­ius Bow­man (who opted to join the Win­nipeg Blue Bombers).

When a run­ning back is about to turn 33, as is the case with Mes­sam, it is rea­son­able to won­der how much is left in the tank.

But keep in mind that Mes­sam, at six-foot-three and 230 pounds, is a tank.

He has played his finest foot­ball since turn­ing 30, rush­ing for 1,000-plus yards in each of the past three sea­sons.

Mes­sam is not a break­away threat — his long­est carry in 2017 was a 28-yarder — but he can ef­fi­ciently and re­li­ably grind out yardage as an in­valu­able Cana­dian starter.

If a change of pace is re­quired, speed­ster Mar­cus Thig­pen — an­other mem­ber of Jones’s 30-plus set — can take it the dis­tance in a hurry.

Suit­ably, the Roughriders are in a hurry.

Their sta­dium and fi­nan­cial state­ments are the envy of the league. They have not pinched pen­nies in pur­suit of a re­turn to the Grey Cup game. The fans are also spend­ing freely, pay­ing con­sid­er­able prices to watch the Green and White.

With that in mind, 2018 had better be pay­off time … or at least home play­off time.

If the Roughriders can wring one more stel­lar sea­son out of Mes­sam, et al, Grey Cup rings could be the re­ward.

Rid­ers head coach and GM Chris Jones is at­tack­ing the 2018 CFL sea­son with an all-in men­tal­ity, re­in­forced by his re­cent free-agent sign­ings, says colum­nist Rob Vanstone. TROY FLEECE

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