Nowhere to go but up

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

Tyler Donovan is trying to make the most with limited reps.

As the fourth quarterback on the Edmonton Eskimos depth chart, he's fortunate to get any passes in at all.

But with every tight spiral that comes out of his hand, the more he's going to force the Eskimos into a difficult decision.

"He looks pretty comfortable," said Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia. "We're in a unique situation with the guys that we have occupying that position.

"He's constantly in a catch-up mode and he doesn't want to be left behind. He hasn't fallen behind yet otherwise he would not still be here."

24 ON WEDNESDAY

Donovan, who turned 24 on Wednesday, is situated behind Ricky Ray, Stefan LeFors and Jason Maas on the Eskimos depth chart.

Yet the Milwaukee native arguably has the strongest arm, and comes out of the most renowned college of the four. Last season he led the University of Wisconsin Badgers to the Outback Bowl where they lost to the University of Tennessee.

Ray attended Sacramento State, LeFors played at Louisville and Maas was an Oregon Duck.

"It's tough when you don't get a lot of reps at the quarterback position because it's all about repetition," Donovan said. "I'm a rookie. They have some veteran guys and they're bringing me along.

"And when you're reps come, you have to make the most of it."

Donovan also has work cut out getting into the quarterback inner circle as Ray, LeFors and Maas have all worked together in the past. Maas, 32, signed with the Eskimos this off-season to back up Ray after struggling the past two years in Hamilton and Montreal. Maas started his career in Edmonton and won three Grey Cups during his six-year tenure before being traded to the Tiger-Cats following the 2006 season.

LeFors, who turns 27 tomorrow, was anointed the Eskimos quarterback of the future after passing over Steven Jyles on the depth chart last season and started the last five games of the year following a shoulder injury to Ray.

"From Day 1 when I met this group they were there for me," Donovan said. "If I have a question they are the first to let me know what's going on. They've been very helpful through this whole process."

In order for Donovan to stay, he'll most likely have to displace one of the top three quarterbacks. A trip to the practice roster means he's available to any other team in the league.

"Ideally, I don't know how you keep four quarterbacks, I don't know how you make it happen," Maciocia said. "And we have a couple of quarterbacks that have four-year deals here.

"I don't know what we're going to do right now. We just have to take 53 guys. We're going to take players based on their ability to play and it's all got to fit under the cap, so we have to take it one step at a time."

VALUABLE COMMODITY

Maas could prove to be a valuable commodity as a backup if Ray gets hurt. If he remains behind LeFors on the depth chart, it's unlikely he'll get much playing time.

Traditionally the third spot is reserved for an up-and-coming quarterback not a veteran who is capable of being a starter somewhere else in the league.

"You also have to be able to look beyond today," Maciocia admitted. "And when you take a look of what the future has in store in that position, we have some depth and we have some talent at that position for at least the next few years."


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