The Saskatchewan Roughriders head into training camp with numerous position battles. There are starting jobs to be won at receiver, running back, defensive line, offensive line and linebacker.
But the three biggest questions going into training camp surround men who's jobs aren't on the line in the next three and a half weeks.
1) Darian Durant: Football is a quarterback driven sport and in 2009 and 2010, Durant was steadily progressing towards being an elite quarterback to challenge the likes of Anthony Calvillo and Henry Burris for Most Outstanding Player in the CFL. TSN had him ranked 3rd on the player rankings heading into the 2011 season.
Why or how Durant's progression haulted, if not headed backwards, is up for debate. The bottom line is this; no quarterback gets to back to back Grey Cups and starting in every single game in those seasons by coincidence. 2011 should be a blip on the radar.
Can Darian Durant re-gain his form from two years ago?
But can Durant find his magic from two seasons ago when he led the league in passing and did things in a Rider uniform not seen since Kent Austin left Saskatchewan 15 years earlier?
Durant has the support network he lacked in '11. He has a full-time quarterbacks coach in Khari Jones, who he can lean on as a former CFL quarterback. In '09 and '10 Durant had Marcus Crandell, a former teammate, who he could seek advice from on and off the field. Last year there was no one Durant or any of the quarterbacks had that was on the field just to work with them. Plus with a healthy Rob Bagg, there is another receiver he trusts to join 1,000 yard partners Chris Getzlaf and Weston Dressler. Andy Fantuz was a big loss last season but adding the loss of Bagg right before training camp just made things worse.
The other problem last season was protection. The Riders feel they have gotten better up front with the additions of Brendon LaBatte and Dominic Picard. Plus, they have a healthy battle at left tackle to replace veteran Alex Gauthier.
In the end, it's up to Durant to find his groove. He sure is talking a big game this off-season, which is a good sign as some of his confidence seemed to drain out of him as last season went on.
2) Corey Chamblin: Another rookie head coach for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. This is the fifth straight time the Riders have hired a head coach who has never worked the sideline as the boss before.
Danny Barrett helped turn the Riders from a perennial laughing stock to a contender, Kent Austin got them over the hump to a champion, Ken Miller kept the momentum going and nearly added two more championships and the wheels fell off when Greg Marshall took over for his eight games last season.
What will Chamblin accomplish? And what can we realistically expect as he takes over a 5-13 team?
Chamblin appears to have already won some players over with his no bull and energetic approach. The one thing Chamblin doesn't appear to have done is changed the way he does things. Marshall seemed like he was trying to hard to step back and be more like Ken Miller, while he clearly wanting to get his nose dirty.
Chamblin is getting his nose dirty and when he sees something that needs to be fixed, he'll do it right then and there, instead of waiting for a positional coach or meetings to take care of it.
In saying that, Chamblin appears to have already done something right and that's hiring a talent coaching staff, which is one half of the battle when you're trying to win in your first year.
3) Brendan Taman: While Corey Chamblin will be given a little more rope, the man who hired him has one year left on his contract.
A lot of pressure is on Taman to show he can find the talent necessary to improve the team. Since he replaced Eric Tillman, the record of the team has been sliding and the bottom almost fell out last year.
In 2012, this is his team. He no longer has to answer to Ken Miller and made the moves he felt necessary to right the ship. Though some moves (trade for Odell Willis) were controversial, many were met with optimism (drafting Ben Heenan first overall, bringing in over a dozen former NFLers).
This is the season in which Taman either gets a nice extension with the team or they extend a handshake to him as he heads out the door. Assistant General Manager Jeremy O'Day is being groomed to take over the job someday, it's just a matter of when. Taman is aware of it, as he should. Taman has said part of his job as GM is to find someone good or better than him to replace him someday.
Over the next three and half weeks all the work he put in this offseason, scouting, drafting, hiring and trading, will help determine his fate but will also be a part of how the 2012 season goes in Saskatchewan.