Higgins looks long

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

Tom Higgins, understandably, is holding his cards close to his chest in the final days leading up to the annual Canadian college draft.

Although the poker-faced Stampeders head coach/v.p. of football operations inherited a squad that's thin on homegrown talent at some positions, he contends the Red and White aren't desperate for Canadian starters for the 2005 CFL season.

"We're really not looking for any player in this draft to come in and impact our football team immediately this year," Higgins said while preparing for the selection process, in which he holds the No. 1 pick overall in what many insiders are calling a weak draft year.

"When you're that way, you're thinking, 'Wow, we're in pretty good shape.'

"We like to think the person we do select might be able to have a long career. Somebody who can possibly help us on special teams or have a role on offence or defence but not necessarily a starting role."

Much of the pre-draft chatter has involved outstanding McMaster running back Jesse Lumsden, who signed Sunday night as a free agent with the NFL Seattle Seahawks.

The Stampeders are still fielding trade offers to acquire the No. 1 pick for a shot at Lumsden.

Although Lumsden is the most coveted player available, the Stampeders' priorities are elsewhere. Calgary could use another Canadian kicker, receivers and defensive backs while o-linemen are always high priority.

While the Stamps aren't expected to call Lumsden's name with the first pick, Higgins and Co. are in the enviable position of getting first crack at the available talent. While the kicking game might be the team's most glaring shortfall, the Stampeders aren't likely to spend the top pick to grab a Canadian foot.

"With the No. 1 pick, we get the opportunity to pick and choose and not have to worry about somebody else's picks," said Higgins, whose Stamps have the first pick in all six rounds.

"Now, the 10th pick, that's the one that becomes interesting because you wonder who's going to be gone and who will still be there."

Although the top pick overall puts the Stampeders in the driver's seat in the opening round, drafting a player who's drawn NFL interest can be detrimental.

The Stampeders were in a similar position in 2003 when selecting St. Mary's offensive lineman Steven Morley with the first pick overall. Morley was outstanding in his rookie CFL season, although fled in his option year by signing with the NFL Green Bay Packers.

"I've had the opportunity to be on many different sides where you have the No. 1 pick," said Higgins, who was also in the Stamps organization in 1992 when the club picked o-lineman Bruce Covernton, who played nine seasons in Calgary.

"Morley was a good pick but when you lose him to the NFL, it hurts. But it was still a very good selection.

"Sometimes, it's easy to make the first pick but can you pick guys in the fourth, fifth or sixth rounds that can make your football team?"

The Stamps could use their opening pick for Canadian depth on the defensive line.

Laval defensive tackle Miguel Robede, a 6-ft. 3-in., 288-lb. Montrealer, 23, was an all-star the past two seasons and has drawn Calgary's interest. He was also one of the few standouts at the recent CFL combine.

Despite signing two non-imports last month -- placekicker Sandro DeAngelis and punter Burke Dales -- the Stamps could still spend another late pick to add to the training camp kicking competition.

Sault Ste. Marie's Anthony Posteraro, 21, of Iowa's Graceland University could be worth a look if he's still available late in the draft.

Although he's more of a punter than placekicker, Posteraro's equipped to do both and could provide a long-term solution to the Stamps kicking woes.

The Stampeders also could use a Canadian defensive back at safety after losing starter Wes Lysack in a trade to Winnipeg late last season.

A surplus of Canadian defensive linemen and linebackers could allow the Stampeders to employ an import at safety, typically a Canadian position.

Solid Canadian o-linemen are always a commodity, with the Stamps intent this season to play all homegrown talent in front of starting quarterback Henry Burris. Former Dinos defensive lineman Tyler Lynem is also expected to be moved to the o-line this season.

While Higgins would like to dig up some Canadian kickers and defensive backs in this draft, he admits they aren't a strength of this draft.

"You can't manufacture them," Higgins said.

Stampeders GM of player personnel Jim Barker said teams will have to rummage through the rubble to find quality players.

"It's not super-strong," Barker said. "You really have to do your homework."

POTENTIAL PICKS

* RB Jesse Lumsden, 22, McMaster University is a Hec Crighton trophy winner in 2004 but has signed with Seattle.

* DL Miguel Robede, 23, of Laval, 6 ft. 3 in., 288-lb., an all-star in 2003 and '04.

* K Anthony Posteraro, 21, of Graceland is primarily a punter who could get a shot at both jobs in Calgary.

* OL Chris Best, 22, of Duke, 6 ft. 5 in., 305 lb. would fit nicely into Stamps' plans for all-Canadian o-line but might choose to continue his education.

* DT Victor Cabral, 22, of Georgia Southern, 6 ft. 4 in., 262 lb.

* DL Martin Lapostolle, 25, of Indiana, 6 ft. 2 in., 280 lb.

* DB David Hewson, 23, of Manitoba could compete for starting safety job.

* WR Brett Ralph, receiver out of University of Alberta, a native of Raymond, is just 5 ft., 9 in., and 171 lb. but has great bloodlines as the younger brother of Eskimos Brock Ralph.


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