Esks may shift to a III-speed

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

Under the category of no surprise, it appears Tony Tompkins will have some speedy competition at Edmonton Eskimo training camp.

One day after head coach Danny Maciocia revealed that Tompkins will likely return to camp after a frustrating 2006 season, the Eskimos announced the signing of import punt returner Vince Strang III.

"He has a ton of speed," said Maciocia of his new pint-sized 5-7, 160-pound recruit. "He has been timed under 4.4 seconds in a 40 (yard dash)."

Anything under 4.4 seconds is considered very fast by NFL standards.

But Strang brings more to the table than just speed. In his senior year at California-Berkeley, he had 17 receptions for 205 yards and five touchdowns as the fourth receiver into the offensive package on passing situations.

With the small rosters in the CFL, a multi-dimensional designated import is highly coveted.

"Montreal has Keith Stokes now. He can return and play receiver," pointed out Maciocia. "The more you can do, the better your chances (of making the team)."

In his two years in Edmonton, Tompkins has just one reception for six yards while being used almost exclusively as a returner.

A full two inches shorter than Tompkins, Strang was likely on the free-agent market for the Eskimos because of his size - which has been an issue his entire career.

The 26-year-old Californian was actually denied a chance to play Pop Warner football in Grade 8.

"I needed to be 85 pounds," remembered Strang, "and, when you are 12 years old, you don't just throw 12 pounds on."

But making Cal-Berkeley as a walk-on proved he could overcome his size.

Now he's hoping to do it again with the Eskimos.


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