Anyone who watched the Ottawa Redblacks last season can name the players on the roster expected to be the stars for the team in 2023. Most of these names are established veteran players who have shown what they can do over an extended period in the Red and Black.
However I wanted to take a look at the players on this team that could be names to watch for the future. Whether that future is later this season, or next, we will see. In this article we will highlight one player from each position group to keep an eye on for the future of Ottawa. Some of these players could turn into building blocks for the Redblacks long term, changing the fortunes of a team that hasn’t done much winning in recent seasons.
Tyrie Adams, Western Carolina
I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t put Tyrie Adams on this list. Tyrie is headed into his second season with the Redblack. This contract came after playing in the Champions Indoor Football League in 2021, helping lead his team to a championship run before signing with Ottawa. Adams spent last season on the practice squad most of the season until late in the year when he finally saw playing time in meaningless games to close out a lost season.
Playing in the final game of the year, the 26 year old was able to complete 8 of 12 passes for 98 yards, and added 3 carries for 30 yards as well. Adams continued his strong performance in the preseason this year. He got the start in week 1 completing all four of his passing attempts for 139 yards and 1 touchdown, adding 3 carries for 12 yards and 1 touchdown. In week 3 coming off of the bench he completed 7 of 11 for 105 yards and 1 touchdown adding 2 carries for 26 yards.
Bringing his overall stat line to 11 of 15 for 244 yards passing 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, with 5 carries for 38 yards and 1 touchdown. This amounts to an average of 16.2 yards per passing attempt, and 7.6 per carry. We will see if the team decides to turn to the unproven Adams, over the veteran Arbuckle who has shown to be turnover prone the last two seasons of his career. Adams will likely see snaps replacing the run threat that was Caleb Evans last season in short yardage and goal-line situations.
De’Montre Tuggle, Ohio University
Tuggle may not be on the active roster right now, but if last season was any indication, he will see his chances this season. The Redblacks suffered several injuries at running back which led to several players seeing significant snaps. While I expect to see this team rotate their top three backs often this season, I am still not sold on the durability of Devonte Williams, and Ante Litre has already shown up as questionable. Currently we could see Jackson Bennett as the first player off the bench in the backfield, a man I projected as RB3 in this rotation.
Tuggle provides a good balance of size and speed at 5’10 198 pounds, he averaged 6.41 yards per carry at Ohio University, and 6.7 yards per carry at the JUCO level. In five seasons of college, Tuggle was able to play in 46 games, and produce 444 carries for 2,899 yards, and 31 rushing touchdowns. He also showed his value in the passing game with 48 receptions for 575 yards and 8 more touchdowns.
Tuggle also has special teams viability which could be another reason he gets the call up sooner rather than later. During his time at Ohio he returned 25 kicks for 623 yards and 2 touchdowns. He simply scores no matter where or how you put the ball in his hands. He graduated college with 41 total touchdowns on 517 touches as primarily a rotational back for Kilgore and Ohio.
He was used in the kickoff returner position during the preseason, and managed 2 returns for 57 yards just over 28 yards per return. He also managed 13 carries for 36 yards, 2 targets, and 1 reception for 17 yards. I expect him to get in some games in 2023, he is obviously capable of playing at this level, or the potential is there given that he was also originally drafted by the XFL as well.
Cj Lewis, Bowling Green
Lewis has the ideal size, weight, and speed to make it in the CFL at 6’3 214 pounds, having run a 4.55 40-yard dash, a 38 inch vertical leap and 15 reps in the bench press. His numbers would have placed him near the top of the pack in the vertical leap, and not too far off the top mark for his position group in the bench press. His 40-time leaves something to be desired, but he is quicker on the field of play than his time truly demonstrates.
Lewis was moved around the formation from in the backfield, to inline as a tight end, out wide, or in the slot as well. One thing you always want to consider when looking at rookies who will see playing time early, is their contributions on special teams, and in the blocking department. Per Pff.com Lewis dipped below a 60% run blocking grade just one time, his final season, and peaked as high 73.9 at Boston College.
Lewis played college football for 6 seasons, appearing in 50 total games between both Boston College, and Bowling Green. He amassed 81 receptions for 1,169 yards, and 8 touchdowns, while also showing his value in other ways. During college he attempted 3 passes, completing 2 for 27 yards and 1 touchdown, and added 1 carry for -1 yards. He also appeared on special teams, primarily as a blocker, or gunner. He may not have collected crazy statistics, but he did collect a long highlight reel of difficult catches you have to see to believe.
Roman Wahrheit, Towson
Wahrheit is a very interesting prospect on the offensive line, although he graduated from Towson University after the 2022 season, he got his start playing football in Germany with the Oldenburg Knights of the GFL2. This is basically the developmental league for the German Football League. This led to an opportunity for Wahrheit to attend a university in the United States. He would commit to Towson, and ultimately play for the school from 2019-2022.
Wahrheit is very intriguing because he didn’t start much in college, playing in just 32 games during his collegiate career. He was shuffled between positions, primarily seeing time on special teams as a blocker for the field goal unit, and originally was used as a tight end in running situations.
In 2021 and 2022, he would appear in all 22 games, but start just five games, and actually see a 4 yard carry in his senior season. At just 24 years old he is very young, and very raw, but he also has the size, and strength and athleticism to play offensive line at the next level given the chance to develop.
During his pro-day he managed a 5.59 40-yard dash, and 26 reps in the bench press. His arms measured 32 inches, with a total wingspan of 79 5/8 inches, and he stood 6’7 325 pounds. If he can continue to develop under one of the best offensive line coaches in the CFL, he could quickly turn into an interesting asset for the Redblacks to incorporate in short yardage situations exactly how Towson did as a tight end, and 6th offensive lineman when needed.
Bryce Carter, James Madison
Carter is a Pennsylvania native, who attended James Madison University for his college football career. Carter originally began his college career at Towson as a teammate of Roman Wahrheit for one season in 2019, before transferring to James Madison to finish out college. This turned out to be a fruitful decision for Carter and his career.
In three seasons with Towson from 2017-2019 he appeared in 49 games and started 40 of them. Every season he managed a minimum of 4 sacks, and 8 tackles for a loss. By the time he would graduate, he had collected 55 tackles for a loss, and 24 sacks. While his entire career was solid, his senior year really put on display what he could do when he collected 53 tackles, 21 for a loss, 9 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 1 recovery. Impressive numbers for Carter to hang his hat on headed into the 2022 NFL Draft.
Despite his relatively small body type, 6’0 255 pounds, Carter isn’t the speedy pass rusher you might assume based on his size. Running a 4.94 40-yard dash, a 7.60 3-cone drill, but redeemed himself by jumping 31 inches and putting up 25 reps in the bench press. His strength rivals men much larger than him, and his ability to use that strength to overcome blockers has been a big reason why we saw him collect such impressive numbers in the sacks and tackle for a loss categories.
From everything I could find, Carter did not receive any NFL interest as a rookie, and turned to the Redblacks for his first professional opportunity. Suiting up for 7 games, he was credited with 5 starts during that stretch. He would collect 10 tackles, 1 for a loss, and 2 sacks. Given the limited sample size, and his performance during the preseason the Redblacks opted to see more out of Carter.
During the preseason this year Carter only played in 1 game, logging 1 tackle. The Redblacks however chose to keep him over three other players that were placed on the practice squad. Two players that are nearly spitting images of Carter and the play style he provides. If Carter can get involved in the rotation again this season, and stay healthy, I expect him to be a solid rotational piece as our 3rd pass rusher off the bench. Something like 4-5 sacks, and 20-30 tackles isn’t out of the question. The Redblacks would likely be happy with that performance.
Chizi Umunakwe, Towson/Central Connecticut University
Chizi Umanakwe is arguably one of the most interesting players in the CFL, and a lot of it has to do with his college career that left so many questions. During the 2021 season, one of his best years in college, he simply disappeared. He was reported as missing, and suffering from emotional distress at the time.
Outside of this incident, he had a fairly quiet college career. Yet another former Towson player who played with multiple names above, he would finish his career with Central Connecticut University in 2022. In 10 games for CCU he collected 94 tackles, 10 for a loss, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble on the year. This amounted to his most productive season.
At Towson, and the year prior at CCU, his performance was solid, if not spectacular at times. In 2018 he barely played as a true freshman seeing the bulk of his snaps on special teams. In 2019 he saw his chance to shine for this defense and special teams unit. Playing in 12 games he amassed 37 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, and 1 sack. He also added a blocked field goal.
Umuankwe is an older player, having spent extra time in high school, and college, but at 24 years old he still has lots of room to grow into a larger role as the season progresses. Given the chance to put his skills on display at his pro-day, he again put up solid numbers. Running a 4.65 40-yard dash, with 27 reps in the bench press, and a 35 inch vertical at 6’0 235 pounds. He has the makings of a starting caliber player down the road, he simply needs a chance to develop into the player he can be. During the preseason he collected 7 tackles, and 1 tackle for a loss, and saw time on special teams as well.
DeAndre Lamont, Illinois State/Central Arkansas
Lamont is a rookie in 2023 with the Redblacks, and lands on the practice squad to start the season. Lamont has played free safety primarily, and has done so with quite a bit of success in recent seasons for Illinois State, and Central Arkansas. He has also seen time at cornerback, and strong safety. This is important because I believe his best position in the professional ranks is likely strong safety.
At 5’10 190 pounds, Lamont could stand to add some weight if he is playing strong safety, but he is stout enough to handle playing in the box or back deep. His pro-day showed that he is better off as a safety, used in man coverage on tailbacks primarily. With 4.70 speed, and a 7.26 3-cone drill he isn’t the scary athlete that most teams seek out these days, but what he lacks in pro-day numbers, he makes up for in production.
Lamont was a bit of a late bloomer at Central Arkansas, he played in just five games his first two seasons, but then in season three he finally got a chance to get involved on defense. He played in all 13 games, managing to solidify a role for himself in the secondary moving forward. Over the next three seasons Lamont played in 32 games and collected 147 tackles, 4 for a loss, 5 interceptions, 20 pbu’s, 1 forced fumble, 4 fumble recoveries, and 1 blocked kick.
As if he hadn’t done enough at Central Arkansas, he moved on to Illinois State to play one last season. He would have a career year for the Redbirds playing in just 11 games he was able to take down 68 ball carriers, including 3 for a loss, sack the quarterback twice, intercept 1 pass, add 4 more pbu’s, and 1 more forced fumble to his resume. The moral of the story with Lamont is he might never be the player that will take home gold in the underwear Olympics, whether that be the combine or a pro-day. At some point you just have to acknowledge he is a productive player, and play into his strengths. It may not be in 2023, but I expect Lamont to continue his progression and grow into a solid player for the Redblacks in the future.
The future of the Redblacks is very bright with so much young talent just waiting for their call. No matter which position, offense or defense there is a player on this roster you can point to as the future of the franchise. This points to smart team building from the top down, and the organization seeing the bigger picture. Immediate success is satisfying, but sustained success is the ultimate goal, and the team has taken all the steps necessary to secure talent that can contribute now, and talent that will develop and help long-term.
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