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Saskatchewan Roughriders place priority on special teams

Full practice put aside for third phase of the game
Reported by Jamie Nye
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For the first time in Mike McCullough's memory the Saskatchewan Roughriders designated an entire session of two-a-days for special teams. During the second session of Wednesday's training camp, the coaches decided the team would work on punts, kickoffs and field goals.

The special teams captain thought it was an interesting change to the way things have been done in the past, "(Special Teams Coach Craig Dickenson) is bringing energy and enthusiasm and it's kind of a different perspective on things and some different techniques but what I like is he explains why he's doing these things."

With Dickenson away from the team for the day, Head Coach Greg Marshall took full control of the hour and a half special teams workout. It finished off with some intense one on one battle drills, which had the players banging around, which seemed to be well received.

"It was a lot of fun," exclaimed veteran fullback Neal Hughes, "We were competing and having friendly competition and it was good conditioning as well."

The new special teams coach has spent the last two years helping out special teams with the NFL's Oakland Raiders and that experience is something he's bringing back to the CFL with the Roughriders, "In meetings we're looking at film from the Oakland Raiders doing special teams drills so guys are obviously going to buy in when they're seeing stuff like that," noted Hughes.

Last year, the Roughriders special teams was almost a weekly concern and clearly the worst of the three phases of the game but Hughes doesn't want to say the work on Wednesday was solely based on the special teams play in 2010, "(Greg Marshall) has stated that special teams is a big priority for this team and so we're just all buying into the system."

There are key battles going on with the specialists as well. Veteran long snapper Jocelyn Frenette is being pushed by rookie offensive lineman Alex Krausnick-Groh. Weston Dressler, Jordan Sisco and Cole Bergquist are all auditioning to replace Andy Fantuz and Rob Bagg as the holder on field goals.

On top of that, the team still doesn't know how the kicking duties will be shared as Eddie Johnson, Chris Milo and Jake Harfman are in a friendly but competitive battle to handle field goals, punts and kickoffs. Johnson and Harfman finished the day by kicking 55-yard field goals, with Milo going wide left, despite being very accurate from inside 50-yards all week.

The Roughriders will concentrate on special teams for a full session of two-a-days on Sunday, as well.