The boys are back in town! Who on the Ottawa Redblacks to keep eyes on heading into the 2021 CFL season

After over year and a half since they were last playing football the Ottawa Redblacks have officially begun the 2021 CFL season. With less than a month away from the very first game of the season in Edmonton against the Elks the Ottawa Redblacks players are in the city of Ottawa, getting ready to kickoff their training camp this weekend.

When fans are able to watch the Redblacks on August 7th though, a lot will be different than they remember from the 2019 CFL season when the team went 3-15 falling dead last in the CFL. The majority of the coaching staff has changed, the starting offence has changed drastically and the defence has improved heavily as well, making a lot of players guys to look out for in training camp as well as during the season for not only Redblacks fans but all of the CFL because of the lack of confidence people have shown around the organization.

Photo: Johany Jutras

Out of all of the players to keep eyes on, the ones that stick out the most are the returning Redblacks and CFL players that are set to have larger roles in the 2021 CFL season. Offensive skill players like Timothy Flanders, R.J Harris, Anthony Coombs, DeVonte Dedmon, Jerminic Smith, Michael Klukas, Nate Behar and Daniel Petermann have all played with CFL teams before, for the most part with the Ottawa Redblacks but have never had a major role at the professional stage. Harris, with the retirements of both Brad Sinopoli and Jalen Saunders is looked at to be the team’s number one receiver while Jerminic Smith and DeVonte Dedmon back him up as Americans and Klukas, Behar, Coombs and Petermann each fill major roles as Canadian playmakers. In the 2019 CFL season this receiving core combined for 1,639 yards and 5 touchdowns, leaving a lot of room to improve and the 2021 CFL season will be their opportunity to show exactly what they can do on the big stage with a large opportunity.

Staying on the offensive side of the ball, protecting new Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Matt Nichols will be both Mark Korte and Nolan MacMillan. These two have already been known in Ottawa for some time now so they aren’t necessarily players to look out for but more players that you shouldn’t forget about. With losses of Canadian offensive linemen Alex Mateas, Jason Lauzon-Seguin and Evan Johnson this off-season there are a few different questions to be answered for the offensive line, whether they will play 3 Americans on the line or try and fit a young Canadian or two in the mix it will be interesting to see how it plays out, however there should be no worries surrounding both Korte and MacMillan. MacMillan being one of just three original Redblacks dating back to the 2013 CFL Draft has been a consistent offensive lineman, helping not only quarterbacks like Henry Burris and Trevor Harris get the ball off to make plays in three Grey Cups but also have William Powell rush for over 1,000 yards on multiple occasions. Korte has also been a part of the Redblacks’ recent success having been a 2018 CFL Draft pick and when he steps on the field in Edmonton he will be 25 years old, making him a young offensive lineman and one that the Redblacks can count on moving forward.

Going up against the offensive line in practice will be returning starting CFL defensive linemen Cleyon Laing, Davon Coleman, and Avery Ellis alongside young returning talent in Darius Jackson, and Kene Onyeka who go with the linebackers in what could be the best front seven in the CFL for the 2021 season. The linebacking core headlines returning Redblacks Avery Williams and Jerod Fernandez but also have CFL veterans Micah Awe, Christophe Mulumba, Don Unamba and Dwayne Norman in the mix. The group is experienced, proven and hungry for more going into the 2021 CFL season and will be a major reason why the defence has success in the secondary with returning defensive stars in Sherrod Baltimore, Antoine Pruneau, Brandin Dandridge, Gump Hayes and Justin Howell who come into camp with experienced CFL defensive backs Marcus Roberson and Abdul Kanneh.

It is needless to say that the Ottawa Redblacks’ returning CFL talent is ready for the season ahead of them and will be able to make plays for the team that will put them into positions to win games, like some CFL rookies will for them. As for the young talent coming into the CFL for their first time and some former NFL players crossing the border the Ottawa Redblacks have a good group of talent ready to make an impact. Receivers Kendrick Rogers, Jordan Smallwood, Ryan Davis, Joe Walker, Cortrelle Simpson and Amba Etta-Tawo all are going into Redblacks’ camp looking for a large role in the offence which is available considering the off-season departures the team faced and with both Mossis Madu and John Crockett out of Ottawa as well running backs Akeem Hunt and Detrez Newsome come to Ottawa from their NFL careers planning to battle experienced CFL running back Timothy Flanders for the starting running back spot.

On the offensive line, young Americans in Jamar Mcgloster, Tyler Catalina, Brandon Hitner, Juwan Bushell Beatty and Na’Ty Rodgers come into Ottawa with CFL Draft picks Jakub Szott, Ketel Asse and Connor Berglof as well as returning young Canadians Andrew Pickett, Daniel Omara, and Ben Petrie.

As for the defensive side of the ball, the Ottawa Redblacks seem to be fine with the group they have coming back and the experienced CFL guys coming in however they also have a number of talented individuals coming in for their first ever CFL opportunities. Defensive linemen like Praise Martin-Oguike, Stansly Maponga, James Crawford, and Reshaan Davis come in with Frank Beltre and Stefan Charles who have experience on the line in Canada and linebackers Lakiem Williams, Juwuan Johnson, D’Juan Hines, Denzel Johnson, Brad Cowan, Dan Basambombo and Adam Auclair have an opportunity to come to camp and fight for a roster spot alongside so many others.

At defensive back the team also has Marcus Lewis, Treshaun Abrahams Webster and Ironhead Gallon ready to make plays for the Ottawa Redblacks and they should have no problem making those plays with the returning group’s help.

All in all, the Ottawa Redblacks have a great group of players coming back to the CFL as well as a great group coming to the CFL for their first ever Canadian opportunities and with the majority of people looking down on the team going into the 2021 CFL season they are ready to shock the CFL so don’t be surprised if they have success.

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