Nichols gunning for Esks roster spot

Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed says the intangibles displayed by Matt Nichols have gone way up over...

Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed says the intangibles displayed by Matt Nichols have gone way up over the past year. (David Bloom, QMI AGENCY)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:31 PM ET

If there is one thing Matt Nichols has learned entering his third season with the Edmonton Eskimos, it’s patience.

Sure, the Eastern Washington product may be getting groomed to become the next heir-apparent of the Eskimos aerial attack, but the 25-year-old quarterback spent his first year on the practice squad and last year on the injured list.

But Friday’s preseason tilt against the rival Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium (7 p.m., TSN) will offer him not only a rare start, but perhaps a chance to jump-start his career.

Then again, it’s not like Nichols was wasting his time the past two seasons.

“Experience obviously has made him a lot better,” said head coach Kavis Reed. “He’s much more familiar with the offence, he’s confident, he’s far more vocal. His intangible meter has really gone up as a quarterback.”

Whether that meter measures higher than the third spot on the quarterbacks depth chart that Nichols currently fills remains to be seen.

But the opportunity is there.

“There is room for Matt to move simply because Matt has done everything right this training camp,” Reed said. “He’s made very few mistakes, his efficiency is up there in the top-three and he’s a young man we want to see have command of the offence (Friday).

“If he shows that he has the leadership skills that we’re looking for and shows that he can manage the football game, there is an opportunity possibly for him to move up.”

And, with Ricky Ray finally vacating the franchise-quarterback role he held for the majority of his nine seasons in Edmonton, that possibility includes the top spot.

“That’s not my decision,” Nichols said of his place in the depth chart. “I feel as long as I keep doing what I’ve been doing, I’m just trying to prove that I deserve to be here.

“I’m just trying to earn a roster spot right now.”

But preparing to make a start, albeit a preseason one, has been a breath of fresh air for Nichols.

“It’s been a full year now since I’ve played in a game,” said Nichols, who has yet to record a regular-season statistic in the CFL, but will begin dressing for games as the team’s holder on field goals this year. “It’s exciting. That’s why we do all the off-season training, that’s why you practise, to go in.

“The games are fun, a lot of fans out to watch the games. This is what you prepare for, I’m excited.”

Nichols will play at least the opening quarter Friday.

“Whatever I get after that, I’ll be glad to play,” he said. “I’m just going to be ready to play as much as they allow me to.”

However long he ends up lasting, Nichols wants to leave his team in a winning position.

“I like to win, that’s why you play this game,” he said. “You don’t come in not worrying about winning.”

Nichols spent the off-season training with former Eskimos defensive end Greg Peach, who signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in February.

“We’d do agility drills or stuff where he’s chasing me, so it’s a fun thing,” Nichols said of his fellow Eastern Washington Eagles alumni. “He’s excited for this season and I think he’s going to be doing good things over there.

“Him being one of my best friends, I lived with him in college, lived with him here last year, it’s different not having him here, but at the same time it’s fun talking about us playing against them.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SunModdejonge


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