Holmes cookin'

Versatile Corey Holmes of the Saskatchewan Roughriders came on strong when Kenton Keith was...

Versatile Corey Holmes of the Saskatchewan Roughriders came on strong when Kenton Keith was sidelined with a concussion. (Sun files)

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

It really is all very elementary, according to Holmes: Kenton Keith is the man in the Saskatchewan Roughriders backfield.

By all accounts Keith has recovered from the mild concussion he suffered and will be the man as the Riders tangle with the Edmonton Eskimos in Sunday's CFL Western Semifinal at Commonwealth Stadium.

FINE BY HIM

All of which is just fine by Corey Holmes.

The versatile Holmes has been used out of the backfield, lined up at slotback and been the Riders' return specialist this season.

Given the variety of ways Saskatchewan head coach Danny Barrett uses him, the five-foot-eight, 189-pound Holmes sees himself as a chip off the Thomas Haskins block.

"That's one of the players when I first got to the league that I compared myself to," offered Holmes, now in his fourth CFL season.

"Haskins, when he was in Montreal, caught for over 900 yards and could also rush the ball when he was playing behind Mike Pringle - one of the greatest running backs in this league.

"It keeps you healthy. You put a lot of years on your playing time and you can make defences prepare a lot of different ways when you have a player like that."

No kidding.

Holmes, 27, was a handful for the Esks' defence when the two clubs clashed at Regina's Taylor Field Oct. 17.

The deceptively strong Holmes had 10 carries for 64 yards and one touchdown to go along with seven receptions for 99 yards.

He also returned a Sean Fleming punt for a touchdown in the Riders' 40-16 romp.

"He's a great talent and can do just about everything for his team and he's tough," offered Esks linebacker Singor Mobley.

"Put that all together and that's a dangerous weapon.

"He's not a big guy. But size doesn't mean anything. He's got speed, strength, good hands and good moves.

"That's a lethal combo, especially playing on a CFL field."

With Keith taking a run at making the New York Jets, Holmes was Saskatchewan's featured back to start the season.

And with Keith unable to get medical clearance to play in Saskatchewan's regular-season finale against the B.C. Lions last weekend, Holmes was on the case once again.

"I enjoy being here in Saskatchewan and the way they're using me on the field," Holmes said.

"Kenton, when he's in there, he's a force to our offence. He's a big asset.

"I do the role that the coaches ask of me. I'm always ready. Kenton is the starter and he's going to be in the lineup, that's going to make us even better."

Holmes led the Riders with 2,704 all-purpose yards this season with 635 yards of that total coming on 100 carries. The Mississippi Valley State product also churned up better than 700 yards on punt and kickoff returns this season.

Despite being displaced by Keith, Holmes has no complaints.

"I was glad to see him back," Holmes said. "The year before I played a lot of slot and did returns and everything. My game has got a lot better.

COMFORTABLE

"I've gotten more comfortable at being moved around. Last year, I really was kind of lost out there at the receiver spot.

"Now when I get out there, I'm much more comfortable. So having him back worked out for the better. That takes a lot of pressure off everybody else."

However, the pressure is on Holmes and the Riders this week. Saskatchewan waltzed into Winnipeg last year, beat the Blue Bombers and moved on to the Western final against the Esks, only to come up short.

"We learned a lot," said Holmes about playing on Commonwealth's much-talked-about natural turf surface.

"We're not going to look at the field conditions.

"We're just going to go in there and play smash-mouth football and do what we've been doing the last five or six games and go and try take the game to them and not let them bring the game to us."


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