Out of Pringle's shadow

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

There's plenty of battles raging in the Edmonton Eskimos' training camp. Arguably one of the best is for the vacant tailback position.

With future Hall of Famer Mike Pringle calling it a career in February, head coach Danny Maciocia is looking for a new feature back.

You can pretty much pencil non-import Mike Bradley in as the guy who'll get between three and five carries per game in 2005.

CFL sophomores Ron McLendon and Reggie White along with former Jacksonville Jaguar Elvis Joseph are the men looking to lug the rock the other 13 to 15 times a game this season.

Unless another Green and Gold hopeful flat-out plays himself out of a job, tomorrow's pre-season tilt between the Esks and Winnipeg Blue Bombers is a make or break proposition for one of the three import backs currently in camp.

"There's only so many (backs) we can keep," offered Maciocia at the conclusion of Day 11's on-field session. "I don't know that we're going to keep all four.

"If you're realistic about it, you know you're going to have to let someone go. And they know. They've been made aware of the situation.

"Every carry is going to count for every single one of those guys that's going to line up back there."

In an effort to create a level playing field for the three imports, Maciocia will toss his starting offensive line up front for each of their touches.

PASSING, FAILING GRADES

Consequently, when it comes time for Maciocia and Co. to issue passing and failing grades, they'll be comparing apples to apples not apples and oranges.

"That's the only way you can evaluate and they're all going to be given a fair opportunity to win a spot here," Maciocia said.

At six feet, 228-pound White has the Pringle-like capability of running the ball straight ahead. Ditto for the six-foot-one, 225-pound Joseph.

The more compact McLendon finds it tougher sledding up the gut. But that doesn't mean the five-foot-nine, 200-pound McLendon comes to the table empty-handed. He's a scatback cut from the same cloth as John Avery.

"The style the coaches are looking for is going to have a big impact," opined the gold-toothed McLendon, who arrived in Edmonton after being cut by Tennessee last September.

THEY'RE BIGGER GUYS

"If they want big guys, then I might as well pack my stuff up right now. Elvis and Reggie are bigger guys. Maybe he wants a combination of both. If that's the case, then it'll be good."

White signed with the Esks ahead of training camp last May, saw action in five games but did not register a carry in those tilts. McLendon was consigned to the practice roster after hitting town and has yet to play a CFL game.

Despite no prior exposure to the Canadian game, Joseph isn't at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to battling White and McLendon for Pringle's job.

"It's a much faster game and I'm going to have a front-row seat come Friday," offered the 26-year-old Joseph, who views himself as an all-around back. "Once I get acclimated, I should be OK.

"I try to bring it all to the table. I'll make 'em miss and if I can run through you, I will. I catch the ball well. Blocking is probably the most important thing. If you can't protect the quarterback, you can't play running back."

The Esks' run game was predictable with Pringle in the backfield the past two seasons. Having Joseph, White or McLendon at tailback would allow for a more diverse attack.

How diverse will depend on which back or backs Maciocia keeps.

"Ideally, you need to have a guy that can be effective in a two-back but also big enough to play the one-back and be responsible with regard to protection," said offensive co-ordinator R.D. Lancaster.

"And that's what we have here. It's been a dogfight since Day 1.

"Now, we'll have to see what happens when we line up and the shooting is for real."


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