Roughriders GM close to naming new coach

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are prepared to name a new coach, perhaps as early as Wednesday, with offensive co-ordinator Ken Miller said to be the front-runner.

Tillman says Kent Austin's successor will be announced Wednesday

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are prepared to name a new coach, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

General manager Eric Tillman's search began Jan. 16 when Kent Austin left the post after one season to become the offensive co-ordinator at his alma mater, Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi).

Roughriders offensive co-ordinator Ken Miller is said to be the leading candidate to replace Austin, who guided the Canadian Football League team to its third title in 97 years on Nov. 25.

Tillman met with Miller, assistant coach Mike Gibson and defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall on Monday to discuss the coaching job.

"I felt it was very important to meet face-to-face with all three internal candidates," Tillman told the Regina Leader-Post on Monday night.

"I had lengthy meetings with all three. No offer was extended, but you can expect a head coach to be presented within the next 48 hours. That way, if it's someone external, I can get somebody on a plane [Tuesday]."

Among the external candidates, according to the Leader-Post, are Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive line coach Richard Harris and long-time CFL coach Dave Ritchie, who last week was turfed as defensive co-ordinator of the B.C. Lions.

Hall, an assistant in Saskatchewan for 14 years, was the first candidate interviewed by Tillman.

Gibson spent the 2007 season as the Riders' assistant coach/offensive line coach.

"There are multiple good choices," Tillman said. "It's a matter of deciding what's the best fit at multiple levels, from communication to shared philosophy to maintaining the continuity that we have. That can be achieved internally or externally."

Tillman has said he wants a coach he knows or has worked with previously.

Calgary Stampeders offensive co-ordinator/associate coach George Cortez, Toronto Argonauts offensive co-ordinator Steve Buratto and Argonauts defensive co-ordinator Kavis Reed also were in the running early on but fell by the wayside for various reasons.

Austin took over as Roughriders coach on Dec. 6, 2006, succeeding Danny Barrett after being fired as the Argonauts' offensive co-ordinator.

He was hailed as a hero across Saskatchewan when the Riders defeated Winnipeg 23-19 in the 95th Grey Cup in Toronto.

Saskatchewan finished with a 12-6 regular-season record — the most victories by a rookie coach in franchise history — and hosted a playoff game for the first time since 1987.

Austin left Regina with two years remaining on his contract.

In other Roughriders news Tuesday, Canadian receiver Michael Palmer and linebacker Dustin Cherniawski signed one-year (plus an option year) contracts.

Palmer will be entering his sixth CFL season this summer. He caught 10 passes for 191 yards in nine games with Saskatchewan in 2007 after being waived by Toronto.

Cherniawski has posted 40 special-teams tackles in 41 regular-season games.