Nowacki's future on hold?

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos aren't wasting any time trying to fill the critical void left by Jason Johnson.

While he was officially a backup quarterback until he retired on Sunday, Johnson's much bigger contribution to the club was being Sean Fleming's holder on field goals.

"It's very important," said Fleming on the holder's job.

"Obviously people don't notice it - they just see the guy catches (the ball) and puts it down, but there are a lot of nuances to it. It has got to be tilted the right way, they've got to spin the laces.

"I'm moving toward the ball even before it's placed on the tee. It has to be held correctly or else you're not going to make very many kicks."

A botched hold on a game-winning field goal attempt can kill a team's chances of winning.

Just recall last season's debacle at B.C. Place.

With a shot to beat the Leos in mid-August and ride a massive wave of confidence into a bye week, Johnson didn't get the snap down on a would-be game-winning field goal.

The Esks lost the game and never recovered in their hopes to make the playoffs.

That being said, Johnson did a very good job in almost every other game last year.

Now the Esks are auditioning Canadian wide receiver Andrew Nowacki and quarterback Stefan LeFors at the position.

Nowacki is Fleming's preference at the moment.

"I worked with him last year," said the kicker. "He worked hard at it and he deserves to be the No. 1 guy right now.

"But I think they also want to be able to have somebody who can throw the ball; that's why you tend to have backup quarterbacks as the holders.

"And given the fact that we are probably going to be more open to running fakes this year, I think that's certainly something they will take a look at."

Not considered a prime non-import receiver in the Esks' offence, becoming the main holder would certainly give Nowacki a secure job on the club.

"Any time you can do more than one thing, it definitely helps out," said Nowacki.

But special teams coach Scott Squires could add some players to the audition process.

"There may be a couple of receivers that we would look at and maybe even a DB or two who have excellent hands," said Squires.

But the Esks will likely try to narrow the field and pick their winning candidate sooner rather than later in order to give Fleming time to get used to his new partner.

While Fleming's field goal percentage hovered near 80% last year - which is good - there can be some very rocky bumps in the road with a new holder.

"I had (punter) Glenn Harper (holding) for me from 1992 to 1996," recalled Fleming.

"I think in 1996 I was 83% (on field goals).

"Jimmy Kemp came along in 1997 and we probably had five fire drills.

"If the hold doesn't get down or it slips through the holder's hands, we call fire and it's a scramble."

The Esks want to avoid fire drills this season.


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