HAMILTON -- He has a new team, but the same lofty goal come the end of November.
As Avon Cobourne gets set to make his regular-season debut for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats against the Winnipeg Blue bombers on Friday night at Ivor Wynne Stadium, the diminutive running back has high hopes for 2011 after leaving the two-time defending champion Montreal Alouettes.
"It's not about the (new) team, I feel I have something to prove every year," said Cobourne. "There's always something you can improve on from last year and last year I didn't have 1,000 yards rushing, which is a goal for me. In this league, that should be easy. That's a goal of mine."
Another goal is to complete a rare CFL three-peat.
Cobourne rushed 184 times for 956 yards in 2010, a significant drop-off from the 1,214 he racked up to go along with 13 rushing touchdown to go along with the 458 yards in receiving and two additional majors in 2009, also the year he was named Grey Cup MVP.
Ticats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille said he plans to utilize Cobourne in a variety of ways in what should be a high-powered offensive attack.
"First of all, as a player, I like his diversity," said Bellefeuille, noting that the team has a rough number of touches they'd like to get Cobourne each game but that it will fluctuate. "He can run, he can catch the football and he's an excellent back in protection. We haven't had a back of that quality to protect the quarterback here since I've been here."
Cobourne's presence stretches beyond what he does on the field.
"The other part of it is his mental and physical toughness and accountability," said Bellefeuille. "I really believe that with respect to our locker room, we needed another player on offence who was going to play with a chip on his shoulder and keep the other guys around him accountable and be a vocal leader, as well as leading by example. And he brings that to the table."
Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice concedes preparing to play against Cobourne poses some interesting challenges.
"Different than all of the other backs in the league is probably his ability to catch the football," said LaPolice. "A lot of guys have guys who catch, but he's really dynamic out of the backfield, so you've got to keep an eye on him so he's not catching screen passes or leaking out in the flats because he's pretty dynamic catching the football."
In order to prevent Cobourne from running wild, opposing defences may have to pay a little more attention to him.
"It definitely is going to open up the passing game because you have to respect what he's done in this league," said Ticats receiver Arland Bruce III. "He's capable of going for 100-plus every game, as far as rushing."