Free-for-Hall

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

Danny Maciocia has turned into the Grinch in Regina.

The Edmonton Eskimos general manager has caused some problems - possibly significant ones - for the Saskatchewan Roughriders by hiring Richie Hall as head coach.

Loved in the Riders' locker room as defensive co-ordinator, Hall's departure to the Green and Gold yesterday has changed the landscape for some Saskatchewan players.

"I had a couple of guys (Rider players) call me today and they were like, mad," said Edmonton defensive end Fred Perry, who played in Saskatchewan in 2007.

The Riders have several potential key free agents on defence, including the terrific starting linebacking unit of Maurice Lloyd, Anton McKenzie and Sean Lucas.

Lloyd and McKenzie were CFL all-stars this past season.

And Lucas is an emerging SAM-linebacker.

All three will be on the free-agent market if not re-signed by Feb. 15.

When asked if he could see some players leaving Regina in free agency, Perry replied: "Yeah. My friends called today and told me they were ready to go. Just like that. That is the type of guy Richie is. Without Richie, they don't feel like they want to be there."

Perry won't identify names, but he's not alone in speculating the Riders will lose players because Hall is now leading the Eskimos.

"Someone will (leave)," said current Rider defensive back Omarr Morgan, referring to the linebackers.

A CFL agent also believes Hall can lure one of the three. "Yes sir," he quipped.

Saskatchewan general manager Eric Tillman is reading from the same page.

"There will be some losses," he said.

Ranked fourth in the CFL in average yards given up on defence (372) in 2008, the Esks need to improve.

Under Hall's direction, Saskatchewan had the top-ranked defence giving up just 354 yards per contest.

Hall was actually the defensive co-ordinator in Regina for eight seasons and assistant coach for 15 years.

"He's the best coach I've been around," continued Morgan, who played for eight years under Hall in Saskatchewan.

"He knows how to get along with players, treat players. His defence has been in the top three in every category (last eight years).

"You never want to see him go. But Edmonton is getting a great coach."

Hall spoke with Tillman yesterday afternoon.

"It's a bittersweet day," said Tillman.

"We're happy for Richie, who has given so much. But there is a sense of personal and professional loss. He's been a part of our family for almost 20 years."

There is no official word on who will replace Hall as the Riders' top defensive coach, but Gary Etcheverry spent last season as a defensive assistant in Regina and is a former CFL head coach.

FINISH LINES: NON-IMPORT STARTING SASKATCHEWAN SAFETY SCOTT GORDON IS SET TO BE A FREE AGENT THIS WINTER.

It's believed there would be interest in Gordon coming to Edmonton if an offer was put on the table.

With the J.R. LaRose experiment at safety blowing up, Edmonton was forced to play an import at safety this year - hurting its flexibility to play a starting American elsewhere.


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