Ron's big chance

Ron McLendon has had to wait for his chance to shine, but the five-foot-eight speedster is expected...

Ron McLendon has had to wait for his chance to shine, but the five-foot-eight speedster is expected to be the Green and Gold's starting running back Friday. (Edmonton Sun/Perry Mah)

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

With a mouth full of gold teeth, Ron Mclendon has plenty of flash.

Now it's time for the compact running back to prove he's got dash.

With tailback Elvis Joseph nursing sore ribs, McLendon is a lead-pipe cinch to draw in for this week's CFL clash between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Montreal Alouettes.

Judging by McLendon's choice of words, there's little doubt he'll be making his CFL debut this week.

"Elvis and I talked yesterday and we talked after he got back from Winnipeg after (his) injury," offered McLendon.

"My heart goes out to Elvis. I know he's a hard worker, so he'll work hard to get back."

Although Esks head coach Danny Maciocia was playing his cards relatively close to his chest when discussing his running back situation, there's no question in McLendon's mind as to who will start.

"The coach asked me if I was ready to go and I said, 'Coach, I've been ready to go,' " related the 24-year-old.

"There's a lot of plays that coach put in this week that are going to help me show what I can do with my speed and stuff."

Flip-flopping the five-foot-eight, 200-pound McLendon and Joseph is not a move Maciocia wants to make but it's one he has no control over.

"You never want to lose anybody to injury, especially someone like him," Maciocia said of Joseph.

"I think it's just a question of time before he can easily develop into one of the premiere backs in the CFL. Now, he's got this injury. If he can't go, we're really happy with the guys we've got around here."

McLendon and linebacker Singor Mobley were part of the Esks' season-ticket sale force this off season. Heading to training camp, the general expectation was McLendon would provide a little razzle dazzle in the backfield.

PERFECT WORLD

And in a perfect world McLendon, who landed in Edmonton after being cut by the Tennessee Titans last September, would already have two CFL games under his belt.

However, when the smoke cleared after training camp, Joseph was the man filling the tailback void left by future Hall of Famer Mike Pringle's retirement. In two pre-season games McLendon had 11 carries for 15 yards, while the bigger Joseph had 20 carries for 64 yards.

"It's definitely there for me now but I approach every week as if I was going to play," said McLendon, whose forte is making people miss in the open field. "I'm just really focused to make my debut and really play well."

HELMET TO THE RIBS

Joseph took a helmet to the ribs in the opening quarter of Edmonton's 27-8 win victory over Winnipeg last week and was still tender yesterday. So tender, in fact, the one-time Jacksonville Jaguar didn't practise yesterday.

While Maciocia is strongly suggesting Joseph will be a non-starter for Friday's tilt at Percival Molson Stadium, Joseph wasn't throwing in the towel.

"I'm just working hard trying to get back on the field," said Joseph. "The training staff is working pretty hard and we're just taking it day by day. It's progressing every day and feeling better every day."

Mike Bradley took over from the injured Joseph and had 14 carries for 75 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown romp. Despite being hobbled by a sore toe, Bradley figures in Maciocia's game plan this week. Unless McLendon goes down in a heap, the Waterloo product won't be getting more than four or five carries a game versus Montreal.

"When you dress two tailbacks, there's a strong possibility that you're going to play with your second tailback," Maciocia said of Bradley, who also rested yesterday.

"His role is a significant one. Will he get his number of carries during the course of the season? He will. Will he ever be the feature back here? I think there's still a ways to go."


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