Em­bar­rass­ment of riches for Roughrid­ers at tail­back

Some­one will have to sit when team takes the field for semi­fi­nal against Red­blacks

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - SPORTS - MUR­RAY MCCORMICK

The Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers have a full house at tail­back.

Head­ing into Sun­day’s CFL East Divi­sion semi­fi­nal against the host Ot­tawa Red­blacks, the Rid­ers have at least four op­tions — in­ter­na­tion­als Cameron Mar­shall, Trent Richard­son and Mar­cus Thig­pen and na­tional Kienan LaFrance.

That quar­tet ac­counted for 1,107 of the Rid­ers’ 1,478 rush­ing yards dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son and seven of the team’s 13 rush­ing touch­downs.

All four play­ers have dealt with in­juries this sea­son.

“When we have one Amer­i­can tail­back spot, we’ll go with the health­i­est body,’’ Roughrid­ers head coach and gen­eral man­ager Chris Jones said after Thurs­day’s closed prac­tice at the Credit Union Event Plex.

The tail­backs are also wait­ing to find out who will be on the ac­tive ros­ter.

“The sta­tus thing is a big ques­tion for ev­ery­body,’’ Mar­shall said. “We have a lot of run­ning backs and not that many spots.’’

The na­tional/in­ter­na­tional ra­tio comes into play when it comes to de­cid­ing the start­ing run­ning back. Na­tional guard Bren­don LaBatte is out due to a leg in­jury and his spot is ex­pected to be filled by in­ter­na­tional Derek Dennis.

That change means LaFrance may get the nod so the Rid­ers can ad­here to the league-man­dated rule that a min­i­mum of seven na­tion­als must start. That means two of the three in­ter­na­tional run­ning backs will not dress.

“We each have to ap­proach it like ev­ery other week,’’ Mar­shall said. “You have to get your mind and your body pre­pared to play. It’s eas­ier to re­lax when you think you’re not go­ing to play than it is to get revved up when you’re go­ing to play.’’

Mar­shall led the Rid­ers in rush­ing yards (543) de­spite be­ing lim­ited to 10 games by a knee in­jury he suf­fered in a 38-24 win over the Win­nipeg Blue Bombers on Sept. 3.

He has started just once since suf­fer­ing the in­jury, rush­ing for 53 yards on 14 car­ries as the Rid­ers beat the Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers 30-7 on Oct. 20. Mar­shall said he is fully re­cov­ered and ready to play on Sun­day.

Richard­son is also ready to go de­spite miss­ing Satur­day’s reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale with an an­kle in­jury. He has dressed for four games since sign­ing with the Rid­ers on Sept. 26.

“I’m healthy,’’ said Richard­son, who has 48 car­ries for 259 yards. “If we had to play right now, I could play. I’m not say­ing that I will be 100 per cent, but my mind­set go­ing into the game will be 100 per cent.’’

Thig­pen may be the health­i­est among the trio of in­ter­na­tional run­ning backs. He scored on a run and a re­cep­tion in Satur­day’s 2813 loss to the Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos.

“I’m sure the coaches have a good idea of what they want to do,’’ Thig­pen said. “We’re all get­ting pre­pared to be the guy. Then when our num­ber is called, we can pro­duce and we can do what we can to help the team win.’’

A healthy Mar­shall could be in the mix based on his pro­duc­tion be­fore the knee in­jury. He’s also the most fa­mil­iar with the Rid­ers’ of­fence and block­ing schemes.

“I come out here ev­ery day and pre­pare like I’m go­ing to play ev­ery day,’’ Mar­shall said. “These coaches and this team know what I can do.

“We have a lot of tal­ent in the back­field so all of us bring some­thing dif­fer­ent. How­ever they shake up the ro­ta­tion or who want to put in, we’ll just roll with it. If I’m not play­ing, I will help the guys any way that I can. If I am, then I will do what I have to do on the field.’’

The sit­u­a­tion is rem­i­nis­cent of train­ing camp, at which the Rid­ers had a num­ber of tail­backs try­ing out. Mar­shall emerged as the starter.

“I do feel like it is (my job), but I still want to prove my­self ev­ery day to show why I won the job in the first place,’’ Mar­shall said. “We’ve all had to bat­tle with in­juries with me, Kienan and Trent miss­ing some time, and then Mar­cus had a great game last week.

“We have a lot of tal­ent, but that makes it a lot of fun. We all feed off ev­ery­one’s en­ergy.’’

We’re all get­ting pre­pared to be the guy. Then when our num­ber is called, we can pro­duce and we can do what we can to help the team win.

TROY FLEECE

Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers tail­back Cameron Mar­shall is prepar­ing to play in Sun­day’s CFL play­off game against the host Ot­tawa Red­blacks al­though there is a chance he might have to sit out the match.

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