Riders on training camp hunt for Kory Sheets' replacement
Two running backs standing out at training camp
Who will replace Kory Sheets? It's one of the big questions as the Saskatchewan Roughriders prepare for the upcoming season.
Sheets, who was second in CFL rushing yards last year and was the Grey Cup MVP, headed south to the NFL in the off-season.
That means a new face will be entrusted with running the football. One of those new running backs is Keith Toston.
Violent. I'm one of those guys who never shies away from contact- Rider Running Back Keith Toston
Toston bounced around the NFL for two seasons with Jacksonville and St. Louis before deciding to give the Canadian game a chance.
"After you play two years professionally, it's not just about the moment. It's about thinking about your future as well."
At six feet and weighing 215 pounds, Toston is a big, physical running back who is getting lots of reps at training camp. Toston smiled when he described his running style.
"Violent. I'm one of those guys who never shies away from contact. I can make you miss if I need to, but I always put my body out there."
So far, Toston has been the main running back used in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
THOMAS LOOKING FOR A FRESH START
Another running back who is getting a long look is Jermaine Thomas. He brings speed and quickness to the Riders, but also a checkered past.
In February of 2011, Thomas was arrested twice in the same week for driving with a suspended licence. He was also suspended for his final game at Florida State due to poor academics.
Thomas went undrafted by the NFL after graduating in 2012. He spent two years looking for a chance to play.
"I've been waiting for this moment for a long time. Just to finally get on here and put on some pads. Put on my helmet. Being here with the guys is just really great."
COACHES HAVE A DIFFICULT DECISION
The final decision on who replaces Sheets will be made by the coaching staff. Each coach is looking for different things.
Running backs coach Avon Cobourne wants his players to run the ball well but also protect the quarterback.
They do need a solid foundation in practice and then we'll see how they do in a game- Roughriders' Head Coach Corey Chamblin
Offensive Coordinator George Cortez said athleticism will only go so far. A starting running back has to be able to do everything well, including catching the ball out of the backfield.
Head Coach Corey Chamblin is waiting to see how these running backs perform in a preseason game before making a decision.
"Even when Sheets got into a preseason game, that was a difference because of how he played in the games. That taught me as a young coach to not make to much of practice. They do need a solid foundation in practice and then we'll see how they do in a game."
The first chance Rider fans will have to see Toston, Thomas and the rest of the running backs is June 14th at Mosaic Stadium when the Riders play the Ottawa RedBlacks.