Bauman looks to crack Esks corps

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:16 AM ET

EDMONTON - Chris Bauman was somebody’s No. 1 choice, just not the Edmonton Eskimos’, so far in 2011.

The first-overall draft pick in 2007, the former Hamilton Tiger-cats receiver is now trying to find his way on a new team — one that is not only deep in receivers, but having plenty of success with him on the sidelines.

But with import slotback Adarius Bowman out with cracked ribs from last Saturday’s game, the Eskimos’ receivers blender is shaking up to take another look at Bauman.

“Right now, I think that he is doing what we ask him to do. We haven’t had enough snaps with Chris to really say he’s lived up or not lived up to or expectations,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed. “Part of that is on us as a coaching staff because he hasn’t had the snaps, and part of that is trying to figure out where Chris fits into our scheme.”

While he might not have done anything to stand out in his time in Edmonton, Bauman hasn’t really done anything to let coaches down, expectation-wise, either.

“He has been a consummate professional, so he has lived up to his expectations in terms of his professionalism and I expect that the young man, given the opportunity this week, will get in and do some good things for us,” Reed said. “The last time he was in, he made a key catch for us that continued a drive that sealed the deal for us, so I expect that he will build on that as well.”

In his lone start this year, Bauman has just one catch for 12 yards in a win over the B.C. Lions in place of the injured Andrew Nowacki, while being scratched twice and put on the one-game injured list with a groin injury.

So the opportunities have been few and far between.

“I thought I would have had more at the beginning but when the team’s 4-0 and the offence is playing well, it’s tough to make changes,” said Bauman, who will turn 28 in September. “I’m just happy with the opportunity right now.”

While he finished strong last year in Hamilton, averaging a career-best 17.5 yards per carry and tying his top touchdown production with three visits to the end zone, a hip-flexor injury put him behind the 8-ball in Eskimos training camp.

“It’s one of those things where you’re winning and you wish you could be out there, but I’m just doing whatever I can in practice to help the team out,” said Bauman.

But first-overall draft picks come with high expectations that go beyond the practice field, now that he is five years into his career.

“It does. My first year was tough, learning on my own mostly,” said Bauman. “I know I’ve learned a lot since then and even from being in training camp I know I’ve gotten a lot better, so I’m just ready to get out there and play.”

He spent all four of his previous CFL seasons in Hamilton, where he helped the team go from East Division welcome mat to playoff contender.

“Our offence was clicking at the end of the year,” said Bauman, who was moved to slotback at the end of last season but is being looked at as wide out for the Eskimos. “You’ve got to take advantage of it and do everything you can.”

It begins with proving himself to a new coaching staff.

“I have to really do what the coaches want me to do,” he said. “It’s different, you’ve got to show them that they made the right move by bringing me in.

“I had every opportunity to go wherever I wanted and this was just the right fit. It still is.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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