Bench mark

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

Asked months ago to describe himself, Stamps backup quarterback Jason Gesser smiled:

"I'm just a little white boy from Hawaii, man, comin' out here to play some football," shrugged the personable pivot.

Turns out the 6-ft. 1-in., 200-lb. pivot is going to play lots of football over the next month or two following emergency ligament surgery on Henry Burris's non-throwing thumb Tuesday night.

And just like that, a season that finally appeared to be on the right track is now as unstable as Terrell Owens. Or is it?

While Stamps fans have seen their share of Troy Kopps, Kevin Feteriks and Steve Taylors, there are more than a few reasons to believe Gesser -- a 27-year-old Washington State stud -- can come off the bench more like Jeff Garcia, Dave Dickenon or even Burris did as raw rookies thrust into the spotlight.

Or maybe -- just maybe -- he can mirror the success of a bright-eyed youngster whom head coach Tom Higgins groomed in Edmonton three years back.

"This is very reminiscent of a situation we had in Edmonton where we had a starting quarterback go down and our backup was Ricky Ray," said Higgins.

"People said, 'no sweat,' back then and I don't think people are going to panic here now because they got a glimpse of what he can do in Edmonton."

Under the most hostile of environments, Gesser relieved the injured Burris last Friday to go three-of-three for 40 yards, including the Stamps only touchdown.

"If I didn't play in that game or went in and went 0-for-3 (like he did in his only other appearance), the team wouldn't have confidence in me," said the former Tennessee Titans reserve who will get his first pro start Saturday in Hamilton.

"But it gave the o-line, the defence and receivers some confidence in me."

Want a silver lining? Rubberized running back Joffrey Reynolds -- whom many feel still hasn't been used enough -- will finally be pegged as the cornerstone of the offence, taking pressure off Gesser.

At the risk of upsetting the Rider Nation which suddenly believes Stamps castoff Marcus Crandell will pull off a miracle in green like he did for the Red & White in 2001, the effects of Burris's injury on the playoff race could very well be minimal. Here's why:

* Gesser's debut will be on the road against the CFL's worst team, followed by two of three games against lowly Ottawa.

* The team chasing Calgary is being led by the worst starting pivot Stamps fans have seen in 15 years.

* Higgins helped Ray succeed as a newbie and the Stamps have a history of doing the same.

* Calgary's defence is finally demonstrating the dominance it displayed last year.

* The Stamps' experienced o-line and talented running back will now get a chance to shine.

* Gesser was a winner at Washington State where the All-American won the 2002 Sun Bowl, racked up eight fewer TD passes than Pac-10 leader John Elway (Stanford) and eclipsed Drew Bledsoe's best passing season at WSU.

* Gesser handled the pressure well in Edmonton last week and saw plenty of reps early in the season when Burris struggled.

Regardless of Gesser's fortunes, Burris will be back in time for the playoffs and could very well be ready to return in a month's time when he'll determine if a soft cast to be placed on his non-throwing hand at month's end will allow him to play. No one is suggesting the Little White Boy will play well enough to create a quarterback controversy when Burris returns.

But here in Calgary, stranger things have happened.


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