Stamps, Als taking different approaches

Calgary Stampeders quarterback Drew Tate gets ready during practice at McMahon Stadium in Calgary,...

Calgary Stampeders quarterback Drew Tate gets ready during practice at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alberta, (Al Charest/QMI Agency)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:34 PM ET

The Montreal Alouettes are what the Calgary Stampeders didn't want to be.

Getting old.

Sunday's showdown at McMahon Stadium (5 p.m., TSN, QR77) is a battle between teams trying to go different directions.

The Alouettes have the CFL's oldest and most experienced starting group. When you have arguably the greatest quarterback in the history of three-down football -- Anthony Calvillo -- and he wants to continue taking snaps, there's no reason to rebuild.

The Stamps, meanwhile, just completed a massive makeover.

Gone are 2010 CFL Most Outstanding Player award winner Henry Burris, former league rushing champ Joffrey Reynolds and former league receiving champ Ken-Yon Rambo, all key contributors on offence since the beginning of the John Hufnagel era and even before then.

Their starting jobs have been claimed by Drew Tate, Jon Cornish and -- from all indications during Friday's practice session -- Landan Talley, who have a combined age of about 26 and are each entering their first full season in a go-to gig.

Suddenly, the Stamps' active roster includes only a half-dozen guys who've already turned 30, and only two of them -- tough-as-nails slotback Nik Lewis and speedy receiver Romby Bryant -- are projected starters.

The Alouettes could field as many as nine 30-something starters in Sunday's season-opener, including the CFL's all-time passing leader Calvillo, who had 39 candles on his last birthday cake.

Tate, 27, will be the youngest starting signal-caller in the CFL in the opening week of this new season.

After three summers as an understudy to the 37-year-old Burris, Tate claimed the top job at the tail-end of last season and rolled to three consecutive victories before a first-round playoff exit.

Cornish proved during a seven-game starting cameo that he has the potential to lead the three-down ranks in rushing, while Lewis, Bryant, Talley, Marquay McDaniel and Johnny Forzani provide Tate plenty of sure-handed targets.

"The 2012 Stamps are going to be a different team," Cornish said earlier this week. "I mean, you saw glimpses of this team last year, but now this is the real team for this coming year.

"I think we've sort of taken the team over now. It's our team. Before, when you have older guys around, it's really hard to really be part of the leadership. Once the older guys are gone, you can fill in the voids with the younger guys and that changes the face of the organization."

Calvillo remains the undisputed face of the franchise for the Alouettes, a well-earned distinction after three Grey Cup titles and a slew of individual and club records.

Even after former offensive co-ordinator Scott Milanovich moved to Toronto to become the Argonauts' head coach, there's little intrigue surrounding the Alouettes' offence.

There are more question marks about their defensive scheme, but the real mystery of Sunday's game is on the opposite sideline.

As Cornish pointed out, this edition of the Stamps is much different.

Much improved? We'll see, starting Sunday.

Nobody seems sure what to expect.

"We'll see on game day. We'll see what type of team we've got. We'll figure it out" Lewis said.

"In the first game of every year, everybody has to find out their identity. We' going to find ours and see what type of team we've got. We lost a lot of veterans. We lost some leaders and some great playmakers, so now it's time for other guys to step up."

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson


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