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Ottawa Redblacks Continue to Add Recent NFL & UFL Talent

Kaleb Oliver, Jamere Edwards, Adrian Frye, Bralen Trahan, Joe Walker, and Samuel Jackson all have one thing in common. They have all been selected or signed by an NFL or XFL team in 2023. Needless to say, this is an extremely talented group and Ottawa seems to be using every avenue to add top end talent. 

More NFL Level Talent in the Secondary

Both Bralen Trahan and Adrian Frye got a taste of the NFL in 2023 after productive college careers. Both men bring promising talent and a lot of potential with them. 

Bralen “Ballhawk” Trahan, DB Louisiana 

Bralen Trahan spent six seasons playing for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. In that time he appeared in 67 total games and was often the top defensive back on the roster. During his time with the school he logged 13 interceptions, 29 pass break ups, 2 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries and 1 blocked kick. He also racked up 323 return yards and 1 touchdown aiding his offense in that regard as well. 

At his pro-day he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash, with a 32 inch vertical leap but he is simply one of those players that plays faster than his times. He is a tremendous asset on this defense, and if there are any long term concerns about his top end speed he is a player who would fit right in at strong side linebacker if they chose. 

At 6’0 201 pounds, he found his way onto the Chicago Bears early in 2023 after falling undrafted. Ironically he lands in Ottawa, knowing Douglas Coleman a player signed from Ottawa may have been part of the reason he didn’t return to Chicago for the 2024 offseason.  

When asked about the challenge of learning the CFL style of play he replied “I wouldn’t call it a challenge but it would just take some getting use to of the rules and regulations at the end of the day it’s just football”

Adrian Frye, DB Texas Tech 

Adrian Frye is a very similar player to Trahan and honestly these two men could be in competition for what turns out to be the same roster spot in the secondary. He is arguably slightly more versatile given he moved around at Texas Tech playing outside corner, slot cornerback, and safety at times. 

A part-time starter he managed to find ways to contribute regardless of his status as a “starter”. As a redshirt freshman in 2018 he burst on the scene batting down 18 passes and intercepting what would amount to a career high five passes returning one for a touchdown. 

He would ultimately end up graduating with just 7 interceptions, and 26 pass deflections both somewhat disappointing after the monster first season he had. He also saw time as a punt returner, essentially as his snaps dwindled on defense, they rose in the return game peaking in 2021 with 12 returns. He graduated with 28 returns for 146 yards a paltry 5.2 yard average, but it’s something he brings to the table that adds to his versatility. 

He would go on to put up decent numbers at his pro day. He managed a 4.54 40-yard dash, and a 32.5 inch vertical. He has a solid first step with a 1.54 10-yard split, and decent strength with 11 reps in the bench. After this he would fall unselected in the 2023 draft but immediately sign with the New Orleans Saints. 

During the preseason he would play 72 total snaps and appear in all 3 games. Including 43 coverage snaps. He graded out at a 60.7 in coverage, and a 60.4 overall. One thing that I found impressive is he didn’t register a single missed tackle. Theoretically his experience and athleticism lends itself to being a defensive weapon again in the CFL. A player that can quite literally line up at cornerback, halfback, safety or perhaps even strong side linebacker. 

Kaleb Oliver, LB Western Kentucky

Kaleb Oliver looks like your prototypical CFL linebacker. He’s 6’4 219 pounds, and runs a 4.68 40-yard dash. He also graduated from Western Kentucky having played primarily safety. He doesn’t have the necessary top end speed to play in the secondary at the professional level, but he could have a future at linebacker if he plays well in his transition with the CFL. 

Having put up 16 reps in the bench, a 1.63 10-yard split, 7.36 3-cone drill and a 33.5 inch vertical he certainly has all the athleticism needed to play linebacker especially in coverage situations, and contribute on special teams. Originally joining the college ranks with Georgia Tech, Oliver redshirted as a true freshman. 

He would go on to play 3 seasons for Georgia Tech before transferring to Western Kentucky. By the time he wrapped up his college career, he had collected 185 tackles, 11.5 for a loss, 4 sacks, 7 interceptions, 11 pass break ups, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 recoveries. His final season ended up being his best when he played in 14 games. He managed 62 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, 2 sacks, 4 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovery, and 1 tipped pass. He was named as an All-Conference Honorable Mention. 

Oliver is another UFL product that was left out of the new formation of the league. He was originally selected in the 2023 XFL Rookie Draft by the DC Defenders as a linebacker. Von Hutchins and Reggie Barlow of the Defenders are arguably some of the best talent evaluators in the spring football realm. Oliver should be consider a sneaky good addition, and one that could see early NFL interest if he makes the roster given his position change. 

Joe Walker, WR Delaware 

The Redblacks have already signed a bevy of wide receivers that fit various size, and speed categories. Now they’ve brought in a veteran wide receiver from the USFL. Most recently he had signed to the New Jersey Generals intending to play for Mike Riley in 2024. That was until the merger happened and made the Generals nothing more than a fond memory. 

Previously he had played two seasons for the Michigan Panthers. During those two seasons he and his offensive coordinator Eric Marty were some of the few constants as Walker would play with a list of quarterbacks, and multiple head coaches. Then again, Walker is used to change. In fact Walker entered college at Delaware primarily playing quarterback. 

He would actually start over 20 games at the position before ultimately shifting to wide receiver. Walker immediately became a contributor at the position catching 41 passes for 837 yards and 4 touchdowns over his time at the school despite moving to receiver full time as a senior. Walker was simply too good of an athlete to keep off the field. The coaches knew that Walker had all the requisite athleticism to play wide receiver, and his 6’3 200 pound frame makes for a prototypical X receiver in most offenses. 

Did a Late Career Position Switch Save his Professional Prospects ? 

Looking back Walker likely wouldn’t have cut it as a quarterback at the professional level. His time as a quarterback ended with a 48.5 completion rate, 8 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. His best attribute, was his speed which led to 1,207 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground. 

This speed, coupled with his size made for all the potential in the world but it was up to Walker to make it count. To his credit from all reports Walker did everything in his power to make sure he transitioned well and his one season at wide receiver certainly peaked curiosity for teams looking for late round gems. It didn’t hurt that Walker also chose to work out at his pro day at both wide receiver and defensive back. When it came time for drills he impressed running a 4.53 40-yard dash, and putting up 16 reps in the bench. He had all the tools to excel at receiver he just needed time and reps. 

As we all know that can be tough in the NFL and it led to Walker slipping through the cracks. He ended up finding his footing in the USFL with the Panthers. Now after completing his first two seasons as a full time wide receiver at the professional level he now has collected 66 receptions for 826 yards and 6 touchdowns. He attempted 4 passes completing 2 for 36 yards, and added 2 carries for 7 yards. He also managed to return 8 punts for 55 yards in 22, and 7 kicks for 154 yards. With his size, experience and versatility Walker has a fairly good chance at making this Redblacks roster in 2024. 

Samuel Jackson, OG UCF

Unfortunately I don’t mean the actor. Fortunately, he is in fact a very talented offensive lineman who spent some time with the NFL in 2023. Jackson stands 6’6 330 pounds and he attended University of Central Florida for six seasons. He brings with him an 81.7 wingspan and 48 starts in 69 appearances in college, and a brief stay in the NFL. 

We are also talking about a highly intelligent and motivated individual. During his time at UCF he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology, and a Master’s in Educational Leadership. He saw AAC All-Academic Team honors three times, also making UCF Honor Roll in 2021. 

If you’re looking for leadership, Jackson could eventually be that guy as he was a team captain twice in college, on top of his degree. Versatility is one of the most valuable attributes that Jackson brings to the table. He is capable of playing every position on the line although he spent most of his time at guard or tackle to this point. 

NFL Experience/Performance

After his college career the big knocks on Jackson were to be expected somewhat. According to Tony Pauline on; Jackson was considered to have great strength, good explosion out of his stance, but lacked the agility and footwork to be used in a zone blocking scheme. This limited his ability to successfully play tackle in the NFL given that at any moment he could be facing a pass rusher with sub 4.5 speed. 

The Jaguars must have agreed because they signed him and brought him to camp to compete as a guard. He stuck around into the preseason where he played 71 snaps, playing 38 pass blocking snaps, and 33 run blocking snaps. He split his time at right and left guard playing 38 snaps on the right side 33 on the left side. He was called for 2 penalties, and allowed 4 pressures. He ended the preseason graded 52.3 overall, 37.2 in pass blocking, and 63.2 in run blocking. The Jaguars opted to release him leaving him available to sign with the Redblacks in 2024.  

Ja’Mere Edwards, DL James Madison

Edwards is just the latest player with XFL ties to make the jump to the CFL since the merger happened. Edwards attended James Madison University in his final season of college and capped off a strong career with his best season yet. 

Playing 11 games in 2022 he collected 44 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, 1 fumble forced, 1 recovered, essentially doubling his career stat line. Prior to his time with JMU he attended Marshal University for five seasons. After redshirting as a freshman he went on to see time in three seasons. 

During that stretch he would play in 17 games racking up 80 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, and 5.5 sacks, 1 tipped pass, 1 forced fumble, and one recovery. Graduating following the 2022 season he would declare for both the NFL, and XFL draft. 

Draft Day

One knock on Edwards is he played defensive tackle in 2022 as 6’3 275 pounds but went on to add 11 pounds by the time he participated in the pro-day and combine circuit. His numbers at the pro-day, were fairly disappointing for his size which led the NFL passing on him. 

At 286 pounds, in the modern NFL you’re expected to be more of an agile pass-rusher preferably with the skill set to kick outside to end in certain situations. With that in mind, his 5.43 40-yard dash and 1.81 10-yard splits were subpar for this role. He may have been able to save his stock by displaying above average strength, but 21 repetitions didn’t hit that mark. His broad jump was also below the average for his position group. 

The XFL saw the potential to get a player with a lot of upside even if he wasn’t the prototypical athlete they would search for at the position. He would go on to be selected by the Vegas Vipers in the 2023 XFL rookie draft. Only to watch his team disappear into the darkness that came with the UFL merger. This left him to explore his other options, namely the CFL. 

Deyon Sizer, DL CSU Pueblo

While we have already covered another player on this list with UFL ties in Deyon Sizer, we won’t rehash what he brings to Ottawa in this one. If you would like to read more about Sizer:

More Puzzle Pieces

The Redblacks certainly seem to have a set direction this season, and they have gone about adding intriguing players many who have very high upside. The transition to the CFL game isn’t a small thing by any stretch, but there are some discerning factors that can be found in players that help determine success in this style of play. All of these players check at least one of those boxes. Now how does it all fit together is a question that should be answered in training camp and preseason. 

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Sam Just Reporter
I am a writer and content creator focusing on alternative football leagues like the UFL, CFL, AFL, IFL, NAL, and AIF. If you like alternative football leagues, check out my personal platform Shady Sports Network on YouTube and all your favorite social media platforms.
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