Donovan can't wait to take field

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

EDMONTON - While training camp is a place for football players to make a name for themselves, there is one member of the Edmonton Eskimos who is trying to remain nameless.

After all, the less people hear Donovan Alexander’s name, the less it usually means he has gotten beat deep by an opposing receiver.

And the Winnipeg native’s name didn’t get called much last season, making 17 starts at safety after earning the No. 1 job — despite the position being up for grabs as an import role to start the year.

“It’s a good thing for a defensive back when you’re not talking about them, right?” said head coach Kavis Reed. “Unless it’s touchdowns being run back.

“But Donovan is the consummate professional, he truly has developed into the quarterback of the secondary.”

Which is why he was the only returning starter from last season who didn’t play in last week’s preseason opener in Calgary.

WATCHED

Instead, he watched from the sidelines with the other veterans already secure in their jobs for the upcoming season, while coaches evaluated their depth.

But he will resume his role alongside his fellow starters in the secondary Thursday against the visiting B.C. Lions (7 p.m., www.esks.com).

“I’m just looking forward to playing this one,” said the six-foot, 181-pound North Dakota product who reinvented his game after coming to Edmonton as a free agent following two years with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

“Last year, we moved him from corner to safety and by nature he’s a very quiet guy,” Reed said.

“We’ve gotten him to be more vocal, we’ve gotten him to communicate what he sees. He’s done an exceptional job with that.

“The most pleasing thing about Donovan is his tackling has improved throughout the season last year and we’ve seen so far in practice that his angles are correct and hopefully it will translate into him being a good tackler again this year.”

In 18 games, Alexander made 41 tackles, five knockdowns, a forced fumble and a pair of interceptions — including the first of his four-year CFL career — in the Thanksgiving game against the Roughriders.

“This off-season, a lot of my friends asked me where I’m playing. I say, ‘I don’t know,’ I just go into camp and want to be one at the top,” Alexander said. “I’ll play anywhere they put me, I just want to be on the field.”

LAST LINE OF DEFENCE

Where he finds himself on the field is the last line of defence, with the only thing behind him the end zone.

“The guys are just counting on you to be deeper than the deepest and be the safety valve,” said Alexander.

“And to know the defence inside and out. I’m just trying to do that and be better than last year.”

He is part of a core secondary of returning veterans who are joined at cornerback by 2011 practice squad member Joe Burnett, who is replacing the released Jykine Bradley.

“Playing with guys like Chris Thompson and T.J. Hill, it makes life so much easier on the football field,” Alexander said. “Those guys are just natural-born leaders.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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