Heat squarely on Tompkins

Edmonton Eskimos wide reciever Tony Tompkins will be challenged at training camp with a couple of...

Edmonton Eskimos wide reciever Tony Tompkins will be challenged at training camp with a couple of ex-NFL speedsters. (Edmonton Sun File/Jason Franson)

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

A phenomenal rookie season hasn't bought Tony Tompkins any job security with the Edmonton Eskimos.

The defending Grey Cup champions are bringing Richard Alston and Chris Cole -- ex-NFL speedsters with some impressive special teams credentials -- to training camp to challenge Tompkins.

"I think after winning a Grey Cup, competition (at camp) is even more important," said Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia.

Tompkins was nothing short of brilliant last year, recording a league-high four return touchdowns in the regular season.

He also returned a 96-yard kickoff for a major in the Grey Cup.

"It's going to take an awful lot to beat out a guy like Tony. He's special," admitted Maciocia, before adding a caveat to that statement moments later.

"I don't want complacency to set in."

Alston brings experience from the Cleveland Browns.

"I played extremely well when I had an opportunity (in Cleveland)," said the 25-year-old East Carolina product.

"I set the record for most return yards in a Sunday night (NFL) game (in 2004)."

In total, Alston averaged 21 yards per kickoff in 2004.

NEW COACHES, NEW VIEWS

But he was released after training camp in 2005.

"They had new coaches and they had their own viewpoint," said the six-foot, 210-pound New Jersey native.

"Of the 53 guys on my team in 2004, only 20 of those guys were on the team in 2005 -- that's the kind of overhaul they did."

Cole was with the Denver Broncos for four years -- 2000-03 -- and ranked third in the AFC in kickoff return average in 2001.

BOUNCING AROUND

He has since bounced around with the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars, but has been plagued by injuries, including a separated shoulder and dislocated wrist.

By signing Cole and Alston, the Eskimos also cover their bases in case of a training camp injury.

"What happens if something happens to Tony in a pre-season game?" said Maciocia.

"What are we going to do? Not return the ball anymore?"

The two newcomers will also get a shot at cracking the Eskimos' all-star receiving core, which Cole is really looking forward to.

"I feel like I can be a starting wide receiver in the NFL if I got the reps," said the former third-round NFL draft choice from Texas A&M.

"I will give them (heck) at wide receiver (at training camp in Edmonton).

"I have all the talent in the world."

FINISH LINES: After a brilliant college career, Chris Collins has also inked a contract to challenge for a receiving job. The 23-year-old import set nine Ole Miss marks, including the all-time reception and receiving yard records, before spending a season in NFL Europe. The Esks will have at least 11 receivers at training camp, which starts May 21 ... The Saskatchewan Roughriders signed defensive tackle Reggie Hargrove and wide receivers Hutch Gonzales and Kareem Kelly yesterday. All three players signed one-year contracts with options.


Videos

Photos