May 10, 2012
Rough ride ahead for Saskatchewan?
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Give the Saskatchewan Roughriders credit for taking a shot when not many teams in their position would be willing to attempt it.
In the mercurial world that is the CFL, depth at the pivotal quarterback position is as vital as any. It’s an area so important that experience in three-down football becomes an absolute necessity.
In Riderville, Darian Durant will be expected to take each rep in hopes of taking the Roughriders back to the post-season following last season’s turbulent 5-13 season.
By all accounts, Durant is looking as good as ever heading into training camp, but like any incumbent who lines up under centre, he’s one play away from potentially being hurt.
That’s where Saskatchewan GM Brendan Taman will roll the dice, turning to the United States in signing four quarterbacks with zero CFL experience, four guys whose football paths are as interesting as the competition for Durant’s backup.
Whether it’s Colt Brennan, a one-time Heisman Trophy finalist, Levi Brown, a one-time draft pick of the Buffalo Bills, J.T. O’Sullivan, who holds the distinction of having played for 11 different NFL teams, or Drew Willy, a University of Buffalo product who played for four NFL teams, one will have to emerge as Durant’s understudy. In all likelihood, two must show signs of being able to enter a game and even win one if circumstances dictate.
“We’ve rolled the dice, but we’re comfortable in where we are,’’ Taman said on Thursday during a conference call. “We don’t have to worry about who’s going to start because we’ll be fine with Darian.
“As for who is behind him, we’ll see.”
Durant will enter his fourth year as Saskatchewan’s starter, but is coming off a season he’d sooner forget, which included a late-season ankle injury that kept Durant out of the lineup for the final two games.
At a recent mini-camp, Durant looked good and seeks to regain the form that made him an all-star in 2010 when he threw for 5,542 yards.
With a revamped offensive line and a receiving unit that no longer features Andy Fantuz, Durant must perform at a high level for Saskatchewan to excel.
At the same time, finding a quality arm in relief must be addressed.
“In their own way, they each bring different qualities,’’ Taman said of his quartet of unproven CFL quarterbacks. “If we were to play a game tomorrow, we don’t know who will be backing up, but we have time. We still have a long way to go.
“It’ll be an interesting decision to make.”
“Interesting” may also describe the ongoing drama surrounding sack specialist Odell Willis, whom Taman acquired this off-season in a trade with Winnipeg.
Willis was involved in a DUI in suburban Atlanta, leaving the Roughriders in somewhat of a holding pattern as the legal system plays out.
“It’s in the hands of the immigration people and lawyers,’’ Taman said when asked to provide an update.
“It’s on track, but we’re a couple of weeks from finding out what will happen.”
ARGOS SIGN CARROLL
Ahmad Carroll has been given a new lease on his football life.
At least the Argos are hoping this former first-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers will find a long-awaited home, which is no slam dunk given Carroll’s history of bouncing around leagues and even being bounced following a felony arrest.
As the Argos continue to add players to their roster, Thursday’s addition of Carroll caught some off guard.
Some may remember this defensive back from his days in Green Bay, others may recollect his brush with the law that forced Jacksonville to pull the plug, while others may have some memory of a short-lived stay in Calgary, which signed Carroll two years ago this month. Most recently, he was playing in the Arena League.
Soon after signing with the Stamps, Carroll opened up with reporters on a 2007 drug and weapons charge that led to no jail time.
“It was a big blow,’’ he said. “I had to sit out a year when I was suspended by the commissioner. But it gave me the opportunity to tell myself: ‘Don’t make dumb mistakes. Be appreciative of the opportunity to be a professional athlete.’
“Sitting out for a year, you miss that. When you’re chasing the dream to play football and it’s here, you just want to make sure you stay on the straight and narrow, be humble and grind.”
He would start a youth initiative in his native Atlanta, The Humble Grind Foundation.
If he can regain the form that made him a starter in Green Bay’s secondary in 2004 and ’05, the Argos have an asset.
As with any player looking to make a comeback, only time will tell. The Argos also announced the signings of defensive end Curtis Johnson, receiver Jessie Hubbard and defensive back Jamaan Webb.