May 13, 2024

Training Camp Notebook Day 2: Spieker’s emergence; Richards’ big opportunity

June 2, 2023 Pascal Ratthe-/Alouettes-Montreal

Alouettes receiver Cole Spieker broke training camp as a starter in 2023. But his signature moment occurred in last November’s Grey Cup game when he caught a crucial pass on third-and-five in the dying moments of the game. He also caught a touchdown pass in that contest against Winnipeg.

Through two days of training camp, it looks like the momentum he built up in the Grey Cup has carried over into 2024. Spieker made several impressive catches during Monday’s practice session in Saint-Jerome including a diving grab on a corner route during one-on-one drills.

“He was one of our best performers throughout training camp (last year),” head coach Jason Maas said of Spieker. “He always does his job, but nothing he does surprises me. He makes so many plays out here. I’ve seen a lot of players run corner routes in this league and make big plays doing it, and today was one of the best ones I’ve seen ran and caught.”

The 27-year-old finished last season with 389 yards on 33 receptions in 12 games. With Austin Mack in the NFL, Spieker could be one of the players that gets more targets in 2024.

“I feel more confident,” Spieker admitted after practice. “I’m just building my trust with my teammates and the coaches. I feel really comfortable out here. I’m excited to see what this team can do. I know the coaches trust me and it’s a good feeling.”

Third-year linebacker Tyrell Richards is looking to stay healthy for the entire 2024 season. The 25-year-old has been limited to 18 games over his first two seasons, but his goal is to suit up in all 18 this year.

Richards plays a violent game. He’s one of the elite special teams players in the CFL and he’s shown that he can play at a high level on defence too. Last August in Winnipeg, he scored a touchdown off an interception on the Blue Bombers’ first drive of the game. Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury in the second half when former teammate Raheem Wilson caught him in the knees with his helmet while making a tackle.

In his rookie season, again, it was a teammate who knocked him out of the lineup as Tyrice Beverette collided with Richards on a special teams tackle. The collision left the young Canadian with a broken arm.

“I felt good going into last year,” Richards said. “I feel like I kind of proved it over the first few games until I got hurt. I’m going to focus on doing the exact same thing. It was an unlucky injury, there’s nothing I could’ve done to prevent it.”

Alouettes defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe likes to deploy a 3-4 defence (three defensive linemen, four linebackers), which could give Richards an even greater opportunity to play meaningful snaps this year. With Avery Williams no longer on the roster, Richards should be the favourite to play alongside Darnell Sankey in the middle of the defence.

“The goal is to start and hopefully be a special teams All-Star,” he said. “I want to prove that I’m the best special teams player in this league because I honestly think I am. The defensive snaps will come. It’s good learning it and the coaches trust me.”

A scary incident occurred near the end of practice when linebacker Reggie Stubblefield and receiver Tyson Philpot collided. Both players stayed down for a short while but both players managed to return before the end of the session.

“Your heart stops (when you see that),” Maas said of the collision. “I know we’re all competing out here and you want to see effort on every single play and watch them compete. Guys will go down at times, but anytime you have guys collide like that, it’s a scary thing. They’re both okay which is a great thing.”

The Alouettes will be back on the field in Saint-Jerome on Tuesday, as they’ll begin practice at 8:30 am. You can check out the full training camp schedule by clicking here.