Embarrassment of riches for Roughriders at tailback
Someone will have to sit when team takes the field for semifinal against Redblacks
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.
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.