Stamps sport 1-2 punch at running back

Jon Cornish is expected to be an impact back for the Stamps this season. (Darren Makowichuk/QMI...

Jon Cornish is expected to be an impact back for the Stamps this season. (Darren Makowichuk/QMI Agency)

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

CALGARY - For the first time in nearly a decade, the Calgary Stampeders head into the CFL season with someone other than Joffrey Reynolds as the feature running back.

The passing of the torch began late last season when Jon Cornish was handed the starting role.

Cornish has some serious legwork to do to approach Reynold’s franchise record of 9,213 rushing yards.

But if his seven-game stint as a starter last season is any indication, the New Westminster, B.C., product is ready to carry the load.

Cornish churned out 611 yards and seven touchdowns in seven starts. The Kansas University product finished the season with 863 yards along the ground and another 385 through the air.

The ground game should be in good hands with Cornish and fleet-footed LaMarcus Coker.

Linebacker Robert McCune goes up against the pair daily in practice and says they’ll be a handful for opposing defences.

“For me, being at practice and looking at Cornish and Coker, they’re two great running backs,” McCune said.

“Cornish had a great year last year, and you saw Coker, in spots, do great things for this team. This year, I think he knows the role he’s going to have to play.

“They’re both fast. I think Cornish even looks faster than last year. I’m looking forward to them helping us win some games this year.”

Cornish will be looking to become just the fifth Canadian running back to lead the CFL in rushing — a feat that hasn’t been done since Ottawa Rough Riders back Orville Lee was tops in 1988.

Normie Kwong, Gerry James and Ron Stewart are the other home-grown running backs to lead the league.

Coker added 20 lb. of muscle over the winter to prepare for the increased pounding his body will take this season.

And if anyone knows the benefits of added muscle, it’s McCune, the former American military man who could enter — and win — bodybuilding competitions.

“It’s a long season,” McCune said. “Midway through the season, you’re going to have to rely on those muscles to keep you healthy and strong.

“It’s (Coker’s) second year, and he’s really matured. I can see him out there running around — and he’s been doing a good job.”

Fullbacks Robe Cote and Tim St. Pierre won’t be asked to do much with the football. Their true value, of course, is in the blocking game.

Newcomers Matt Walter and Bryson Tucker will also fight for playing time in hopes of getting their mitts on the odd pigskin.

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