Anyone's Gesser

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:48 AM ET

The Calgary Stampeders have a simple plan.

Coveted free-agent acquisition Henry Burris will continue developing this season into one of the most productive pivots in the CFL.

His touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio will be vastly improved while the Stampeders offence will wear out the lights in scoreboards around the league.

Along the way, if everyone follows the blueprint, the downtrodden club will charge into the playoff race for the first time since 2001.

But when was the last time everything went according to plan?

What if Smilin' Hank turns into Hurtin' Hank as early as June 7, the first pre-season game against his old pals from Saskatchewan, festering nearly four months for a reunion with their starter?

Stamps quarterbacks coach Bill Diedrick, who brings more than 30 years coaching experience to training camp, has a backup plan.

In fact, he has four backup plans in the forms of Jason Gesser, Darnell Kennedy, Giovanni Carmazzi and Michael Souza, already working out in closed-door sessions this week.

All are eager candidates working to earn the No. 2 spot behind Burris, working to impress Diedrick and the Stamps coaches.

"You never want your starter to get hurt but, if something did happen, one of those guys would have a great opportunity to step up," assures Diedrick, anticipating the official kickoff of training camp on Sunday. "The relationship is starting to build and you get the chance to evaluate each of them in so many different areas before you even get to camp."

Although head coach Tom Higgins suggested yesterday all four backups have taken turns earning promotions to the No. 2 spot in pre-camp workouts, the early form chart suggests Gesser has an edge on the rest of the field.

One of the four backups is also unlikely to make it through the first week of camp as Higgins prefers a more manageable number for optimum reps.

Diedrick is impressed by Gesser's approach to the game.

"When you look at all of the backups we have, the thing that was so encouraging about signing Jason is we know he's a very talented young man, we know he's an outstanding student of the game and he's a great competitor," Diedrick says of the Washington State product, whose last pro experience came as a backup with the NFL's Tennessee Titans in 2003.

"When you see the things he did ... you know he's a great competitor.

"It's going to take him a while to make an adjustment to this game, to the field and everything else. That's why this week has been so important for him, throwing the different routes on this field and getting a feel for the ball and all those things."

While the four backups are jockeying for the No. 2 and 3 spots, there's obviously no doubt whose hands hold the offence's fate this season.

And Diedrick says there's plenty to admire about Burris, who turns 30 next Saturday.

Although Burris threw 18 interceptions to go with 23 touchdowns with the Roughriders last season, his remarkable West Final performance suggests he's just beginning to tap into his potential. That day he completed 72% of his passes for 416 yards and three TDs.

"The number one thing I really like about him is his ability to lead the people around him," Diedrick says.

"He has a wonderful way of picking up the players around him, which a lot of great leaders do.

"Another thing I'm impressed with is his velocity on the ball. I think he has a tremendously strong arm and also has the ability to take a little bit off of it, so on some of those shorter throws he's not stinging hands. The third thing is he's really been a good student of the game, watches a great deal of video. He's always in there, very prepared.

"It's Henry's team and Henry has to carry the load."

Unless, of course, the team is forced to resort to Plan B.


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