‘We’ve got that grown man strength to go play’: Huskies defensive line retooled for 2021

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WATCH: Football games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage, or as it's known on the gridiron the "trench battle." Although th Huskies football team graduated a pair of perennial all-stars from the defensive line, the remaining regime plan to keep their status as one of the best lines in Canada West football. Brenden Purdy has the story – Sep 17, 2021

At six-feet-four-inches tall and 250 pounds Riley Pickett is an imposing force.

The third-year Saskatchewan Huskies defensive lineman has spent his tenure with the dogs terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, running backs, or anyone he gets his hands on.

Over his three-year career as a Huskie, Pickett was one part of a monstrous defensive line that consisted of himself, Evan Machibroda, Nic Dheilly and Tristan Koronkiewicz.

Now that the veterans have graduated, it’s Pickett’s turn to lead.

“It’s been a little different, for sure, because I’ve always had, you know, guys to lean on,” Pickett explained. “This year it’s definitely been a little bit of a learning curve, taking over the sole captaincy of the D-line and stuff.

“But, we also have a really good group of guys that are veterans on the team, we’ve got that grown man strength to go play.”

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“He’s filling that leadership role that was held by Evan Machibroda,” head coach Scott Flory said. “He’s been doing a great job of it so far.”

Although the D-line will have many new faces starting this season, they aren’t new to the program, many having played as many, or more seasons than Pickett.

“There’s going to be different bodies in there,” Flory said. “But, the guys that are in there have been around, they’ve played a lot of football. They’re not right out of high school; this isn’t the first year for them.”

One such player who has earned a place to take first team reps is fourth-year lineman Nathan Cherry, who has spent his career with the Huskies predominantly as a back-up.

“He’s been a spot rotator guy,” Flory explained. “Now that getting into that full time position, (he’s) more than ready to fill the void.”

“I learned a lot from those guys, I’ve got a good D-line coach,” Cherry said. “I feel ready to step in and take that starting roll and hopefully do really well.”

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The bond shared between the two linemen is one that Cherry hopes to see continued growth out of over the course of the coming season.

“I’ve actually been a Huskie for longer than him,” Cherry said. “So, I’ve got to see him come in and fill those roles and learn from his game and he’s learned from my game.

“We feel like our games complement each other really well, we’re both physical players so we feel like we’ll be able to squeeze the pocket down well.”

The determined group of new starters has been a welcomed sign to Pickett, who’s used it to give himself an extra boost throughout camp.

“We’ve definitely got bigger, stronger and faster guys,” Pickett explained. “Just everyone’s work ethic has really motivated me to keep pushing myself, and expanding my own game as well.”

Even with the turnaround on the defensive line, the man running the show on the sidelines has been impressed with what he’s seen throughout camp, and has high expectations heading into the coming season.

“We’re going to rely on those guys up front to make sure that they’re getting pressure and unnerving quarterbacks,” Flory said.

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