Stock dropped after false accusal

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

Tyler Ebell is back in the game.

For the first time since being wrongly accused in an unfortunate court case last year, the import running back is going to a training camp. The Edmonton Eskimos officially introduced him as a rookie prospect yesterday.

The relatively small (5-foot-9, 200 pounds) but speedy talent is hoping to rekindle a career that featured jaw-dropping numbers in high school and UCLA.

"That incident messed up a lot of stuff for me," said Ebell on his court nightmares.

"It hurt (my NFL draft stock) tremendously."

Two days before the 2006 NFL draft, Ebell was charged with assault with a deadly weapon by the American justice system.

"Basically I watched a fight and then I got charged and arrested and went to court for seven months and got it dismissed because there was no evidence of anything," continued Ebell. "I still don't know to this day how they got my name involved in it besides me being there and being a witness."

To no surprise, NFL teams passed right by the California product in the draft - and he has been out of football for the last year.

But the Eskimos are confident in taking a shot on the 23-year-old.

"We had him checked out from head to toe. We have talked to a lot of people and we know that he is a solid guy," said Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia.

"We just want to give him an opportunity to come in and compete for a job."

Ebell was one of five rookies officially introduced by the club yesterday.

A simply stunning high school career in southern California understandably earned him a shot at a college career at UCLA.

As a senior in high school, he set a U.S. national record by gaining 4,494 yards on the ground through 14 games.

He followed that by becoming UCLA's leading rusher in his freshman year with 994 yards and 10 touchdowns.

But a coaching change with UCLA made him leave the school for UTEP for the final two years of college.

Scheduled to arrive in Canada today for the first time ever, Ebell will likely be on the field starting tomorrow for rookie camp before entering main camp on Sunday.

Returnee Ron McClendon and CFL veteran Josh Ranek will battle newcomers Ebell and Phillip Brock for the starting import job.

The Esks will likely keep another import running back on the practice squad.

LATE HIT: Lawrence Smith is going to try to shake off nearly two years of rust when he reports to Eskimo training camp.

The 325-pound import offensive lineman - who was also introduced yesterday - played 16 games for the Buffalo Bills in 2004-2005 before tearing a quad tendon.

He hasn't played a single regular-season game since.

"It is kind of like riding a bike, once you get back out there everything becomes second nature," said Smith on playing in the football trenches.

With Edmonton likely only interested in keeping one import lineman - at the most - Smith will have to be better than veteran Raleigh Roundtree.

To Smith's credit, he can play guard or tackle.

FINISH LINES: The Esks also announced the signings of imports Brandon Bruner (DB) and Kenny Hollis (LB) yesterday. Canadian defensive back Jeremy Steeves - a former Hamilton draft choice - is also coming to camp.


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