Alouettes' Brandon Whitaker to have season-ending surgery
Running back was 4th in CFL rushing this season before tearing right knee ligament
It's Victor Anderson's time with the Montreal Alouettes.
The rookie running back is expected to be the starter Sunday when Montreal hosts the Toronto Argonauts in a crucial East Division showdown. Anderson's promotion to the starting lineup comes after incumbent Brandon Whitaker learned Tuesday he's out for the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Whitaker, 27, will require surgery after being injured in Montreal's 28-17 home win over Saskatchewan on Sunday.
Whitaker is fourth in CFL rushing with 631 yards and four touchdowns while adding 516 receiving yards with five TDs. He led the league in rushing last year with 1,381 yards and four touchdowns and also had 638 receiving yards and six TDs.
The five-foot-nine, 188-pound Anderson admits he has big shoes to fill.
"Brandon is the best running back in the league in my opinion," Anderson told reporters. "You have to stay on your best game in practice because he's always going hard so that continues to push all the younger backs.
"We just have to continue to push and play strong for Brandon . . . we've got to do this for him."
Anderson, who played collegiately at Louisville, has seen spot duty in his first CFL campaign, rushing 130 yards on 30 carries (4.3-yard average) and two TDs while also registering seven catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.
Whitaker spent his first two CFL seasons backing up veteran Avon Cobourne before becoming Montreal's starter after Cobourne left to sign as a free agent with Hamilton in 2011. The former Baylor Bear fit into the offence immediately by leading the league in rushing his first season as the starter.
"It's frustrating but it's football, it's one of those things that happens," Whitaker said. "God has a plan for all of us and I don't quite know what it is right now but it's his plan and I just have to follow it."
Whitaker has often credited Cobourne for helping mentor him when Whitaker was a rookie adjusting to a new game in a different country. While speaking of Cobourne, Whitaker has called him a "big brother."
Role of mentor
This year, Whitaker assumed the role of mentor with Anderson and believes Montreal's high octane offence — spearheaded by CFL passing leader Anthony Calvillo — will be just fine with the rookie in the backfield.
"I'm always trying to help the next guy because I've been in that position before," Whitaker said. "Victor is a great running back and he's going to do very well.
"I don't feel like we're going to skip a beat back there. With more reps and more experience he's going to get better and better. He's always prepared like a starter every week. You never know in this game and that's something I learned in the past being behind one of the great running backs in this league [Cobourne]."
Alouettes general manager Jim Popp said while it's not known just how long Whitaker will be out, he believes Whitaker's long-term prognosis looks good.
"With today's technology and the doctors, he'll have every bit of a chance to recover 100 per cent and be right back with us next year," Popp said. "I know he's disappointed but it's part of the game and we can't control it and just have to deal with it and move on.
"Victor is a solid, quality person let alone a great football player. He's able to do a lot of different things in our offence and help us in other areas like special teams. He'll be the guy now and we'll give him every opportunity along with anybody else we bring in."
The loss of Whitaker comes at a bad time for Montreal (7-4), which leads second-place Toronto (6-5) by just two points in the East standings heading into this week's crucial matchup.
But Argos head coach Scott Milanovich, who spent the five previous seasons as an assistant with Montreal — the last four as the club's offensive co-ordinator — wasn't taking any satisfaction knowing his defence won't have to contend with the versatile Whitaker.
"That kid has worked so hard to get his job and how well he has played and he's a great young man," Milanovich said. "I don't see him interviewed very much, he doesn't seem to get a lot of media publicity but that one hurts me.
"I had a special relationship with him and I feel badly for him."
Veteran Argos cornerback Jordan Younger echoed his coach's sentiments.
"I feel bad for him because he's a competitive guy and I have a tremendous respect for the way he plays and how well-rounded he is," he said. "Unfortunately, injuries are a part of football and now they have to have their backup step up."