Future firmly on the line

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

The learning period is over for Miguel Robede.

The time has come for the highly touted Calgary Stampeders defensive tackle to step up, take charge and prove he's an every-down player.

Stamps GM/head coach John Hufnagel said as much on the eve of the club's rookie camp and with main camp beginning Sunday.

"This is a big year for Miguel," Hufnagel bluntly stated yesterday when he unveiled the club's roster.

"This is his third year, and right now, I don't think anyone in the city of Calgary or, more importantly, on the football team can tell me that Miguel Robede is a football player I can rely on.

"Now, the challenge has been made to Miguel, he fully accepts it, and he's very, very excited about the possibilities. It's my belief he'll do a great job with it."

For two seasons, the defensive lineman selected first overall in the 2005 Canadian draft has been a non-factor for the Stampeders.

But not entirely due to his on-field performance.

Hardly the favourite of now-departed defensive co-ordinator Denny Creehan, Robede wasn't primarily used during a game until the final three outings last season.

After Creehan was fired, the club started using four defensive linemen -- instead of the three used under Creehan's plan.

Hufnagel and new defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones will go with a 4-3 system, so the time has come for Robede to prove he's worth the time and money the club has invested in him, which the 6-ft.-4, 296-lb. Laval University product accepts.

"This is the season, I guess, that will establish me either with more value or less," said Robede.

"It will give me the opportunity to prove myself, what I can do. I really feel in good shape, lost a lot of fat and put a lot into diet and training -- all that stuff.

"I want this to be my year, so I'm gonna do whatever I can to get better and have that opportunity to be a starter."

It appears the Stamps will go with one non-import starting defensive tackle, meaning Robede, Randy Chevrier and Pat MacDonald are in a fight for key role.

With his raw skills, Robede likely has the inside track, but the key to the argument is the fact he still falls under the category as "potential".

Until Robede goes out and proves he can be relied upon down after down, the question marks will remain.

"I've got to prove myself, step up and prove I can hold the fort," said Robede, who'll turn 27 at the end of June.

"Even prove to myself I can do it, because when you don't play for a long time, you think, 'Am I in the right place at the right time?' or 'What is happening?' or 'What can I do to get better and play?' "

Robede wasn't the only draft choice from a few years back Hufnagel threw down a gauntlet for.

Mike Labinjo, the linebacker selected in the third round of the 2003 draft, is also expected to make an impact at the linebacker position.

"I have no starting point. I'm not trying to be wise at all, it's just what have they done?" Hufnagel said.

EXTRA POINTS

Rookie camp will be today and tomorrow with practices at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at McMahon Stadium, with vets reporting for physicals Saturday and main camp beginning Monday.


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