Replacing Copeland tall task

Toronto Argonauts' receiver Jeremaine Copeland was once a valued Stamp. (JIM WELLS/QMI Agency)

Toronto Argonauts' receiver Jeremaine Copeland was once a valued Stamp. (JIM WELLS/QMI Agency)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:44 PM ET

If a Calgary Stampeders receiver is angling for a bit of extra attention in the red-zone, buying a bottle of red for Henry Burris might be a wise investment.

With former favourite target Jeremaine Copeland now plying his trade for the Toronto Argonauts, the Stamps starting signal-caller and admitted wine connoisseur is, apparently, open to offers.

“Everybody wants a touch. Everybody has talked about it,” Burris said with a grin. “But I’m waiting for the first big bribe.”

Stamps fans will be satisfied with the first big catch.

Copeland led the league with a dozen receiving touchdowns last season, including several of the highlight-reel variety. Meanwhile, the four receivers in Calgary’s current starting lineup combined for only two majors in 2009.

Somebody will have to pick up the slack.

“Hey, I’m there. I’m available,” said slotback Nik Lewis. “Last year, I was a no-show in the red-zone, but I just didn’t get the ball my way. This year, hopefully, I’ll get the ball my way. If not, somebody else will step up and score touchdowns.

“As long as we’re winning as a team and putting points on the board, it doesn’t matter.”

For the past four weeks, the Stamps pass-catchers have been auditioning for roles in the offence.

Starting with Thursday’s tussle against Copeland and the Argonauts, head coach John Hufnagel will find out what they’re capable of when it counts.

The McMahon Stadium faithful should be placing side bets on who will emerge as Smilin’ Hank’s new go-to guy.

With Ken-Yon Rambo still sidelined with a knee injury, the odds-on favourite seems to be Lewis, who has rattled off six consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns but only made one trip to the endzone in 2009.

Perhaps Burris will find some chemistry with Romby Bryant or Arjei Franklin, who arrived in a trade with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last summer and will benefit from a few extra months to study the Stamps’ playbook.

Or maybe it’ll be slotback Jermaine Jackson, who claimed Copeland’s old spot in training camp and seems primed for a breakout campaign.

When he’s healthy (he’s not right now), Ryan Thelwell is always reliable. Americans P.K. Sam, Deon Murphy and Landan Talley will fight for more opportunities on offence, while up-and-coming Canucks Johnny Forzani, Ron Kelly and Blaine Kruger are trying to announce their arrival as pros.

“We haven’t talked too much about who is going to be Henry’s go-to-guy,” Jackson insisted. “We’ve been spreading the ball a lot all through camp and all this week.

“Henry has a lot of options. We have five receivers at any time out there, and he can throw it to all of them and have confidence we’re going to make a play.”

Fresh off his finest season as a Stampeder, few figured Copeland would finish his career in different colours. Perhaps nobody was more surprised than Lewis, who roomed with Copeland for five seasons and counted the two-time all-star as a mentor and close friend.

It wasn’t long, though, before Lewis started to see the positives.

Five days after the trade, he posted a blog on his personal website saying, “I am realizing that it is my turn to take the reins. It’s time for the student to step up.”

Somebody has to.

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca


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