Over the 2022 CFL season, Ottawa Redblacks defensive back, number 27 Sherrod Baltimore made a positive impact in every way possible, on and off of the field.
Baltimore has been known to be a big part of the community in Ottawa since he arrived in 2017. From what he’s done with the Ottawa Redblacks and OSEG to the involvement on his own, his smile has become known across the city, but so has a lot of the plays he’s made.
In 2018 he had 4 interceptions, two of which coming in the playoffs, one in the Grey Cup, and just this past season, despite not getting an interception, Baltimore may have had the best season yet. To see what he did in 2022 with the Ottawa Redblacks click on the YouTube link below to watch his JZ Media highlight reel.
Last off-season, during CFL Free Agency, the Ottawa Redblacks were very active and a lot changed in the nation’s capital. From the front office itself, with the general manager hiring of Shawn Burke, all the way down to the signings of big time players like Jeremiah Masoli, Jaelon Acklin and Lorenzo Mauldin, the Redblacks very clearly got better during the off-season last year. With Free Agency opening up once again in less than two months on February 14th, there’s a lot of questions surrounding the Redblacks and how they will approach the market after they were so aggressive last year.
One difference between this year’s off-season compared to last year will come from the coaching perspective. On December 2nd the team announced that they hired special teams coordinator Bob Dyce as their next head coach. Since then, Burke and the rest of the front office have focused well on bringing back the special teams unit from the 2022 season. They’ve already re-signed both Richie Leone and Lewis Ward, everybody’s favourite kicking duo in the CFL, as well as Ty Cranston, Marco Dubois, Jackson Bennett, Nigel Romick and Justin Howell, who, all Canadians, can play special teams. To continue to re-sign the special teams unit, some players that are still un-signed that have proven themselves on the special teams unit in Ottawa, and in their respective positions would be both DeVonte Dedmon and Shaheed Salmon. Dedmon should be a no-brainer for the Redblacks to bring back, and to prioritize. He was unbelievable in 2021 when he won the CFL’s special teams player of the year award, and broke a record for the fastest player to reach 5 kick return touchdowns in just 15 games. After getting him back from the NFL where he spent time with the Miami Dolphins, the Redblacks should never let him walk to another CFL team. With receivers Ryan Davis, Darvin Adams, Tevaun Smith, Shaquille Johnson, RJ Harris and Nate Behar all hitting the open market if not re-signed, Dedmon can also play a large role on the Redblacks offence for new offensive coordinator Khari Jones.
Like Dedmon, Shaheed Salmon has been a big playmaker for Bob Dyce’s special teams unit since he came to Ottawa in 2019, but in 2022 he also proved himself as a linebacker. In 2019 and 2021 he mainly played special teams, making 12 special teams stops and forcing two fumbles in just 17 games, but in 2022 he made 23 defensive tackles, 15 special teams tackles and forced three turnovers, including an interception from his linebacker position. While he has played lights out on special teams, with a new regime on defensive with coordinator Barron Miles coming in, the Redblacks should bring back Salmon to play a large role on defence as well.
Speaking of defence… there are some big decisions to be made by Shawn Burke and the front office when it comes to what looked to be the Redblacks best unit in 2022.
The biggest name of them all would be Lorenzo Mauldin. He was the defensive player of the year in 2022, and the Redblacks most outstanding player. There is no doubt that he will be searching a big contract following a 17 sack season, and the major question that Redblacks fans want to know would be, “will that contract come from Ottawa?” But unfortunately there is no telling what the answer would be. The Redblacks have 31 other free agents that they will have to make decisions with, and while Mauldin may be coming off of a big season, and fans don’t want to see him walk, there are other options that the Redblacks do have. As pass rushers the Redblacks’ free agent list also has the names of Kwaku Boateng, and Praise Martin-Oguike on it, along with interior linemen Cleyon Laing and Davon Coleman. In 2022 Kwaku Boateng did not play, but was one of the big free agency acquisitions that the Redblacks made in attempts to improve the defence. Praise Martin-Oguike had 3 sacks and a forced fumble in just 9 games played this season in limited action, giving him a total 7 sacks in 18 games with the Redblacks over two seasons. Mauldin of course will be plan A for the Redblacks when it comes to their pass rushers, but with others hitting the market, and the salary cap in mind, a plan B may be in mind as well in the capital.
Staying on the defensive side of the ball, star linebacker Avery Williams is also a pending free agent, alongside the entire secondary. Sherrod Baltimore, Brandin Dandridge, Money Hunter, Abdul Kanneh, Antoine Pruneau and Damon Webb are all set to hit the market on February 14th. Of course, there are still some defensive backs on the roster. Some younger guys like Alonzo Addae, Hakeem Bailey, Douglas Coleman and Darius Williams may find themselves in larger roles come 2023, and with Justin Howell and Ty Cranston also brought back, they may see the defensive playing field more, but with big names on the Redblacks list of free agents, there are some decisions to make. Baltimore is a fan favourite around the city, and really came on for the 2022 CFL season, making several pass breakups, and making plays when the defence needed them. Going into the 2023 season, with a new coaching staff, bringing back Baltimore would do the team a lot of good to keep familiarity, and a proven player in the secondary. Two other players that would bring that would be Dandridge and Hunter. Money Hunter comes off of a 4 interception season where he didn’t even play the entirety of the season but found himself tied for third with the league lead of interceptions. With a bit of time spent with Barron Miles in Montreal it would make sense to see Hunter back in Ottawa for 2023, and it would also make sense to see Brandin Dandridge back as well.
Dandridge’s case is very similar to DeVonte Dedmon’s. He was very close to making it onto the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs roster during the NFL pre-season, and ended up coming back to Ottawa. Unless they are losing him to an NFL team, with the big play potential he has on the defensive side of the ball, the Redblacks would look silly if they let Dandridge walk and make plays against them in 2023.
As mentioned, Abdul Kanneh, Antoine Pruneau and Damon Webb are also among the Redblacks free agents. All three made large impacts for the Redblacks in 2022, and can all be seen brought back, especially Kanneh and Pruneau given their familiarity and veteran presence while still being able to play at a high level, but right now with the long list of free agents, its unsure where they would play in Miles’ system with all of the uncertainty around other positions as well.
While the defence will be figured out, and pieced together to fit Barron Miles’ system, the offence will have to be pieced together now for Khari Jones’ system as well.
Jones was the head coach and play caller of the Montreal Alouettes over three seasons. He saw a lot of success with Vernon Adams in his system, and with Jeremiah Masoli in Ottawa, with a similar playing style as Adams, Jones’ offence may work very well in the nation’s capital, but it needs to be complete. Going into Free Agency, the Redblacks’ offence has Jeremiah Masoli, Tyrie Adams and Dustin Crum under contract at quarterback, running backs Devonte Williams and Jackson Bennett (re-signed) under contract, receivers Jaelon Acklin, Siaosi Mariner, Justin Hardy, Quan Bray, Marco Dubois (re-signed), Keaton Bruggeling, Savon Carver and Tyrice Richie under contract and offensive linemen Dino Boyd (re-signed), Jacob Ruby, Zack Pelehos, Uzoma Osuji, Cyrille Hogan-Saindon and Justice Powers all locked up for 2023, so there is a good start at least to the off-season, but with a lot of pieces still left for the puzzle there will clearly be some work to do in the front office. Among all of the free agents ready to hit the market from Ottawa, some that the Redblacks should make efforts to bring back would definitely include offensive linemen Hunter Steward and Darius Ciraco, and receivers Darvin Adams, Ryan Davis, and at least two of the three Canadian playmakers, Nate Behar, Shaq Johnson and Tevaun Smith.
With 31 free agents ready to hit the market still from Ottawa, it is clear there is a lot of work to do in the front office to flip the organization from 4-14 to a successful 2023 campaign. It won’t all be done via re-signing players, but as Free Agency opens on February 14th, expect the Redblacks to go after talent across the CFL to get better.
On December 2nd, the CFL welcomed in a new head coach when the Ottawa Redblacks announced that they hired Bob Dyce for the job. Not only did they welcome just any new head coach, but they welcomed in one of the most loved coaches in the league into a large role.
He came to Ottawa in 2016 and has spent the last 7 years as the Redblacks’ special teams coordinator. While he has had a lot of success as the special teams coordinator, most recently with Lewis Ward breaking a record for consecutive field goals made, and DeVonte Dedmon returning 5 kicks for a touchdown in just 15 games, but also looking back at the other players he’s coached in Ottawa, both Brett Maher and Diontae Spencer now call the NFL home. Dyce’s special teams unit has clearly been successful on the field. The numbers and the film speak for themselves, but a major reason for the success on the field comes from his success off of the field in the locker room. Over the last 7 years, while Dyce has been known for what he’s accomplished with the Redblacks on the football field, he has gained the trust, and has been loved by the players in the locker room at TD Place.
When he was first announced as the Redblacks interim head coach in October, defensive back Sherrod Baltimore told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “we love coach Dyce. He’s more than just a coach to us. He’s fixed my scooter breaks before, he’s given us life lessons, he’s like an uncle, father and a coach. I’ve got nothing but love for him. He’s a very smart coach, he knows what he’s doing, and he knows exactly what’s going on on the field, great attention to details and he has high expectations for us. I’m happy for him and his family.”
Like Baltimore, two players that also love Bob Dyce would be both Richie Leone and Lewis Ward, who have spent a lot of time with Dyce over the last few seasons.
This week it was announced that both of them would be back in Ottawa for the 2023 season and on.
As a place kicker, Lewis Ward was 49 of 57 in 2022 with a season long of 51 yards. Over his career, spread out between 68 regular season games he has a 88.7% field goal percentage, having missed just 22 field goals on a total 195 attempts in 4 seasons. Richie Leone has had quite the success as well in the capital as a punter. He has been a CFL league wide all-star twice in his four seasons in Ottawa, while being named an east all-star three times, missing out just once in the 2022. Signing with Ottawa, Leone had told the media, “there will be plenty to cheer on the banks of the Rideau Canal in 2023.”
Alongside both Leone and Ward, the Redblacks also re-signed both Marco Dubois and Ty Cranston who have also been seen heavily on special teams.
As the off-season continues, watch Dyce and the Redblacks continue to prioritize the special teams unit, and other important pieces with high hopes for the 2023 CFL season in Ottawa.
On December 2nd the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks made official who their next head coach will be. Leading up to the decision, it had been announced that they talked to three candidates. The list included defensive coordinators Mark Washington (Hamilton), Corey Mace (Toronto) and an in house special teams coordinator in Bob Dyce. For those within the organization in Ottawa, there was so much respect for all three candidates, as each of them have put so much work into their careers to get to this point, but knowing what Bob Dyce has accomplished thus far, and what he has done for the Redblacks, as well as the city of Ottawa it was a no brainer to hire Bob Dyce as the Redblacks’ third head coach in franchise history.
Dyce came to Ottawa in 2016 as the special teams coordinator following 13 seasons spent with both the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders as an assistant coach.
In 2016 he won the Grey Cup with the Redblacks, and during the 6 seasons he spent as the Ottawa Redblacks’ special teams coordinator he has, time after time, proven himself as one of the best special teams coaches in the CFL. From the fantastic kicking unit he’s had over the years spread between players like Chris Milo, Brett Maher, Richie Leone and Lewis Ward, all the way through the return teams with big play makers in guys like Jamill Smith, Tristan Jackson, Diontae Spencer and DeVonte Dedmon, all of the players he has coached, and their success portrays perfectly the kind of success Dyce has had as a coach.
Now, being the head coach of the Ottawa Redblacks, Dyce says, “it feels great!” about the new title. He explained, “I’m thankful for this opportunity. Anytime you get an opportunity to lead an organization, or be the face of the organization, you take great pride in that. I’m blessed because I know a lot of the people here and I know how much it means to them so I’m very excited to see what the future brings in this new role and new position.”
Being rewarded this new opportunity, and being named the next head coach of the Ottawa Redblacks, Bob Dyce has been doing a lot of reflecting on his past, and how far he has come. During his press conference on Friday you could tell how much the opportunity means to not only himself but everyone that has been a part of his journey. One name that he mentioned, and was one of many people he thanked to open the press conference was his high school basketball coach, Brian Thompson who left a big impact on Dyce from the coaching side of things. In a one on one interview with JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic following the press conference, Dyce told Zlomislic. “its really how he allowed us to be ourselves,” why Thompson made an impact on him at a young age. He explained,“I was never the best student growing up, and I was never the best kid, but he allowed me to be me and thats what allowed me to be successful. I didn’t have to change who I am or who I was and not meant a lot and showed me there’s different ways in leadership, you don’t always have to squeeze people down, sometimes when you open them up, it allows them to flourish more and I’ve always taken that to heart from Brian and I’m trying to be the same way as a coach.” On the basketball court, Dyce said, “(Brian) didn’t get mad when we practiced if we swore, got mad at him or called each other out. He just let us play and let our competitive juices flow and that was very eye opening for me.”
His basketball coach, and the stories he has from his upbringing in sports have been on the back of Dyce’s mind for the last 24 hours as he has been awarded one of the biggest accomplishments of his professional coaching career, but what else has been on his mind is how he got started in coaching.
When Zlomislic was interviewing Dyce off to the side following the press conference, he asked about some moments that he will remember from his coaching career that goes beyond just the football field. The story he brought up was one on how he began his coaching career. “before I started coaching in the CFL, I was coaching at the University of Manitoba.” he told Zlomislic, “at the time there was no internet, so to become a better coach, and to learn more, you had to talk to coaches, and go take a look at coaching for yourself to find different ways to be a better coach, so I used to go to Bombers practices all the time. I was a sales rep at the time so I’d be in a suit all day and I’d go to Bombers practice to watch and take notes to learn and be a better coach myself.”
“When I eventually became a guest coach with the Bombers and the next year was on the staff, I remember Milt (Stegall) came up to me once and said ‘you know I used to wonder who that black guy was taking notes in a suit about football at our practices.’ and I was just thinking about that last night, going from that point (the beginning) to this point as the head coach of a CFL team.”
Every football player’s dream is to play in the NFL.
It is a goal that many set for themselves at a young age, and really, it is a goal only a few achieve.
It takes a lot of steps to get to the NFL, and not everyone is cut out for it, but for those that are cut out for it, typically you can find out at a young age. A perfect example of that would be Mobile Christian School’s Sterling Dixon. A class of 2024 defensive end/linebacker that has been dominating since he first stepped foot on the football field, and with guidance from well known coaches like Coach Ronnie Cottrell at Mobile Christian, as well as current and former players, it has been proven time after time that Dixon’s name will one day roam the NFL.
Today, on December 1st of 2022 the young man made a decision that will only bring him closer to the goal, and the reality of going to the NFL. That decision being to commit to the University of Alabama.
In an interview with JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, a creator and journalist who he’s spent time with during the 2022 season, on a day in the life project and other interviews, Dixon explained, “I’m just blessed.” saying, “it’s been a long process, and I’m extremely grateful to be in the position I am in, but it feels good to get the commitment out of the way, and to focus on my responsibilities and to become the best young man I can be right now.”
The University of Alabama is by far the biggest school around the nation and some would wonder if he feels any pressure going into the big school, but all he has on his mind going into this new chapter is to stay focused. He explained in his JZ Media interview, “I just need to go in and stay focused. I know what needs to be done, and now I just have to do it, and get it done. I have one more year of high school once this year is complete, and all I have to do is stay focused on school, and to continue to play at the highest level, the rest will take care of itself, I know God is with me everywhere I go.”
Watch Ottawa Redblacks runningback, Devonte “The Matrix” Williams’ best plays from his rookie of the year 2022 CFL season in the capital.
Over the season Williams carried the rock for 454 yards on just 90 carries, averaging over 5 yards a carry while adding 27 catches for 159 yards to the totals, giving him 613 yards of offence on the season, ironically, in the 613 (613 being Ottawa’s primary area code).
Williams season was short, only suiting up for 8 of the Redblacks 18 games in 2022, but with a rookie of the year award won within the organization, and the numbers he put up, without a doubt his name is one to keep eyes on for the future of this Redblacks team.
On Thursday night the University of Memphis’ women’s soccer team was on the road in Orlando playing against the University of Central Florida in a big AAC semi-final game. Going into the game, UCF was the favourite to win. On paper they seemed so much better than Memphis. Having not lost a conference game, and going 9-2-5 on the season, the Knights were expected to come up on top and move onto the championship game, but the Memphis Tigers, being the defending champions that they are had different plans.
The Tigers played neck and neck with the Knights the entire game and after 110 minutes of action both teams were tied at 1-1, bringing on some penalty shots to close out the game. Going all the way into the seventh round of penalty kicks, it was the University of Memphis’ Zoë May that closed out the game with a game winning goal.
May, from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada is one of many Canadians on the University of Memphis women’s soccer team, and has shown a lot of glimpses of what she’s capable of in her freshman season. On the season, according to the University’s athletic website, she recorded 523 minutes played, scoring one goal with 11 shots, 7 of which being put on goal. Her and the Tigers closed out the regular season strong, and have had a great playoff run thus far, making it an exciting game to watch this Sunday as the Memphis Tigers will take on Southern Methodist University.
The game will be played at 12:00 central time/1:00 eastern in Orlando, Florida, and will be televised on ESPN.
Prior to watching Sunday’s big game, tune into a JZ Media interview with University of Memphis’ Zoë May from Ottawa. In the interview she explains a bit about her journey to the 901 from Ottawa and what her first season of division one soccer has been like. The interview can be seen on YouTube using the link above, or on Instagram at @jzmedia.ca.