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Dylan Campbell, 3, gets his football signed by Patrick Kabongo (left) as he and Troy Davis ride...

Dylan Campbell, 3, gets his football signed by Patrick Kabongo (left) as he and Troy Davis ride stationary bikes following the Edmonton Eskimos training camp practice at Clarke Park on Tuesday. (Edmonton Sun/David Bloom)

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

Ricky Ray called it a carousel.

It was more like a roller-coaster ride from hell.

The Edmonton Eskimos had a revolving door of running backs trying to create something through the first four months of the 2005 season. The result was a mess.

The assortment of rushers did little and left the Eskimos with a predictable offence - Ray dropping straight back in the pocket and looking downfield.

But everything changed in October when the Esks landed Troy Davis in a trade with Hamilton. And with Davis now firmly entrenched in the starting spot, the Eskimos' attack is definitely two-dimensional.

BIG CHANGE

"It's a big difference," said Ray, who was the Eskimos' leading rusher last season until Davis's arrival. "Last year we were in a mode of throwing about 50 times a game and that put a lot of stress on the offensive line and the quarterback. This year with Troy in camp hopefully we can establish the run early."

In Ray's tenure behind the centre, the Esks have had a handful of talented runners. Davis has the goods to follow in the footsteps of Troy Mills, John Avery and Mike Pringle. For now, though, Davis is focused on getting the playbook down cold after October's crash course.

"I just want to get through two-a-days first," smiled Davis on the subject of season goals. "I'm hoping we can start out fast and if we do it should go smooth."

Davis was slick upon his arrival and finished the regular season with 1,151 yards and five touchdowns. And in the playoff march to the Grey Cup title, Davis gave the Esks the balance they'd been looking for with 202 yards on the ground.

Before Davis came onto the scene, Edmonton's run game was anything but smooth. Elvis Joseph was the expected starter and he crashed and burned after 13 carries and 66 yards. Michael Jenkins had eight carries for 30 yards - half of which came on one play. Ron (Goldie) McClendon racked up 303 yards and was the only one of the trio to be welcomed back this year.

McClendon has shown some spunk in the first days of camp - a sign that he has got the system down better than a year ago.

"I'm really glad I got to stick around and now I'm ready to explode," said McClendon. "I really want to show the coaches that they can trust me and that I'll make the best of every opportunity. Last year I knew I could play physically but there were a couple of things mentally that I didn't understand. A lot of those things I'm picking up now from Troy Davis and incorporating that into what I have."

MUCH BETTER SITUATION

With Davis, McClendon and Dahrran Diedrick in the speedster spots and Canadian fullbacks Mathieu Bertrand and Mike Maurer supplying the power, the Esks' running game should no longer cost Danny Maciocia a good night's sleep.

"A world of difference. We're in a much, much better situation in '06 than we were going into camp in '05," said Maciocia.

Diedrick was another late-season addition, coming aboard in September, and has shown signs of becoming a factor this year.

"We have to find a way, especially with the two preseason games coming up, to give him as much action as possible and let him showcase his talents," said Maciocia. "And then we'll sit down with the coaches and make some tough decisions."


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