Esks' four-way battle

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

It's make or break time for Ron (Goldie) McClendon.

About to enter his third main training camp with the Edmonton Eskimos, McClendon is likely No. 1 on the depth chart at running back.

But if somebody else emerges from the pre-season games as the top dog, the personable 26-year-old import knows the writing is on the wall.

"I have bought my time and if it don't happen this year then it probably won't happen in Edmonton," said McClendon yesterday.

"That is the reality of it."

What makes Goldie's story even more appealing is the fact he's very good friends with Troy Davis.

DAVID OPENED DOOR

When the Eskimos cut the aging Davis in the off-season, that really opened the door for McClendon to be the feature running back.

"It's totally weird and Troy and I have talked about that," remarked McClendon.

"The day he was released it was kind of hard for me because we are such good friends.

"I talk to Troy almost every night.

"Troy is mentoring me if you will, telling me what to do - telling me how to handle myself through training camp."

It's expected to be a fierce training camp battle at running back with CFL veteran Josh Ranek right behind McClendon waiting for a chance to shine.

Rookies Phillip Brock and Tyler Ebell are also very much in the picture.

While the Eskimos' coaching staff isn't going to totally spell out the likely roster scenario when camp is done, it's highly likely one import will stay on the roster with another on the practice squad.

It's also highly unlikely both McClendon and Ranek will stick around town while both promising younger rookies are let go.

Working in Goldie's favour is familiarity running behind the Esks' offensive line.

There is also a confidence factor after rushing for 198 yards in Montreal last fall when he finally got a chance to touch the ball out of the backfield.

And the Mississippi product comes to camp in phenomenal shape at 195 pounds.

"I am in the best shape of my life right now," he said after working out this off-season with the club's strength and conditioning co-ordinator Jeff Krushell.

"(Krushell) is amazing.

"I don't know how we stole him from the Toronto Blue Jays but I am glad we got him."

'JOB IS WIDE OPEN'

Starting Sunday morning at main training camp it's time to perform - and Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia isn't mincing words about McClendon's situation.

"That job is wide open," said Maciocia.

"It is time for him to take charge and try to be the guy and hopefully he will take advantage of that opportunity."

Adding to the pressure for Goldie is the fact the entire Eskimo organization has become such a big part of his entire life.

Selling tickets in the off-season while making an estimated 20 appearances through the community, there is more on the line than just an on-field job.

"It's almost a way of life for me now," commented McClendon.

"And that is why I am doing whatever I can to make that happen for a number of years down the road."


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