Passing judgment

Marquay McDaniel is catching on with the Calgary Stampeders. (QMI Agency)

Marquay McDaniel is catching on with the Calgary Stampeders. (QMI Agency)

SCOTT MITCHELL, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:36 PM ET

CALGARY - If the quarterback battle is the main event, two former Hamilton Tiger-Cats pass-catchers are hoping to light up the undercard.

While all eyes will be on former Calgary Stampeders pivot Henry Burris and current Red & White signal caller Kevin Glenn during Thursday’s tilt in the Hammer after their off-season switcheroo, Marquay McDaniel and Chris Bauman are both hoping to leave an impression on the city where their respective careers took off — and then stagnated.

In McDaniel’s case, he’s not really sure where it went wrong.

After catching 57 balls during his rookie CFL season in 2009, the Virginia Beach native looked like a star in the making. He followed that up with 76 grabs for 994 yards and seven scores in 2010.

But last season, it went south — quickly.

“From the start of camp, you could just tell they were going in a different direction,” McDaniel said. “I go from starting two years to coming into camp as a backup.

“I guess I would have liked a fair shot at it, but that’s the business. That’s football.”

With trade rumours circulating, the 5-foot-10, 205-pounder dressed for only one game in 2011 before being released Aug. 31.

McDaniel quickly latched on with the Stamps and spent the rest of the season on the practice squad. But his journey to Cowtown came with a promise from Stamps brass, and it’s a promise they’ve honoured this season.

“They told me I was going to get a fair shot coming into camp this year,” McDaniel said. “And they stuck to their word.”

Through five games, McDaniel, 28, has proven to be a worthy investment for the Stampeders, as he’s second on the team behind Nik Lewis

(38 receptions, 444 yards) with

20 catches and 275 yards.

While he hasn’t yet set foot in the endzone, the 28-year-old feels the big plays are still to come.

“I feel like I’ve caught the ball and made plays when it’s my turn,” McDaniel said. “I’m doing the little things like blocking well and understanding the system. I’m comfortable with the system now, so, hopefully, I just keep getting better and better.”

While McDaniel entered the league as a relatively unknown import, Bauman carried the title of first-overall pick in the 2007 CFL Canadian Draft.

With it came a great deal of expectations heaped upon the 6-foot-4, 225-lb. receiver.

“There were tons of expectations,” said Bauman, a junior football standout with the Regina Rams. “The Tiger-Cats were losing back then. In my first year, we went 3-15. I think there was a ton of expectation, and maybe I got thrown into it a little bit too soon.

“I didn’t have too much time to learn. I was learning on the go.”

Bauman seemed primed to break out in his third season after posting 48 catches for 588 yards and three majors in Year 2, but he admits he wasn’t ready for everything that came with being a go-to guy.

“It was learning how to deal with a professional league,” Bauman said of his trouble adjusting to the CFL. “You gotta try and keep your head out of the news. I try not to read that anymore. I stay off the (Internet) forums. I tell my parents and family to stay off the forums. I don’t need to hear what they’re saying about me. As long as my coaches and teammates are happy with me, that’s all that matters.”

After a one-year sojourn in Edmonton produced

11 catches for the Eskimos in 2011, Bauman, 27, has already hauled in 12 balls while seeing action primarily in the slot with the Stamps this season.

He attributes some of his early-career struggles to being a square peg pushed into a round hole.

“I love playing slot,” Bauman said. “You’re a lot closer to the ball, and you get a lot more opportunities in there.

“I was back and forth (in Hamilton). One year I’d be wideout, one year slot… Then I was playing a lot of tight end, and last year in Edmonton, it was all wideout,” Bauman continued.

“I think I fit more as a slot player, and I’m glad they’re giving me the opportunity to do that here.”

scott.mitchell@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMitchell


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