Messam's return adds to competition

Hugh Charles says he welcomes the challenge represented by Jerome Messam's return to the Eskimos...

Hugh Charles says he welcomes the challenge represented by Jerome Messam's return to the Eskimos lineup. (QMI Agency)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:19 PM ET

EDMONTON - Jerome Messam may be big, but he’s not Hugh.

Edmonton Eskimos starting running back Hugh Charles has found himself with the proverbial — if not Reebok-branded — shoe on the other foot compared to last season.

After joining the Eskimos late in 2011 and trying to fit in with an already established starter in Jerome Messam, this time it’s Charles in charge.

The two have swapped places and now it’s the six-foot-three, 248-pound Messam trying to play catchup with the Eskimos after spending the NFL preseason with the Miami Dolphins.

“I’m happy to see Messam back,” said Charles, who took the lion’s share of reps at running back on Thursday. “I’m just here to do my job, do my due diligence and keep making a name for myself around the league and for my team.

“I’m not going to be worried about where he’s fitting in. I think that’s going to be a big challenge for the coaching staff. All of us are able to go 100%, knowing you’ve got a guy right on our heels ready to take that spot. So it’s a challenge for all of us.”

Messam’s return, while not guaranteed, was a scenario Charles at least anticipated since earning the starting role out of training camp.

“I’ve approached it knowing that I’m the guy,” Charles said. “I got the job done to get this starting spot and I want to keep it.”

As did fellow starter Cory Boyd, until his release from the Toronto Argonauts. He now finds himself in the undesirable position as third wheel to last year’s tandem.

“There’s just going to be more competition, more time to get in there, get in your playbook and show the coaches that you’re dedicated,” said Boyd. “It’s always good to have depth from the running back position. From what I was told before I got here, they were pretty thin.”

While the Eskimos have certainly addressed the concern of depth at running back due to injuries, finding space to keep all three could become an issue.

“Only one of them can have the ball in their hand at one time, so we’re not looking to reinvent the wheel,” said head coach Kavis Reed. “We will look at some things — if all three are on the roster — that we can utilize in terms of formation. If two are on the roster, we’ll look at that.”

One other consideration is that while Messam has made his return to the league that named him the most outstanding Canadian of 2011, his time with the Eskimos may not last past this season.

“We are in the process of discussing an extension,” said Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman. “But right now, Jerome is still operating under the terms of the contract we inherited in the B.C. Lions contract, which makes 2012 his option year.”

IN AND OUT: QB Steven Jyles was taking first-team reps after being taken out of last week’s game with a right-knee injury and has been named the starter for Monday’s Labour Day Classic. LT Orrin Thompson (flu) resumed his role as a starter on the offensive line and is expected to play this week, while DE Marcus Howard (hamstring) and DT Ted Laurent (ankle) returned to action but are questionable for Labour Day.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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