June 1, 2018

Putting His Best Foot Forward

Like comparing an old-time diesel locomotive and high-speed bullet train.

The difference between a freight-carrier thundering down the tracks across straight, flat, open prairie and the Eurostar warp-speeding its way through the Chunnel towards Paris.

“Terry,’’ predicts quarterbacks Bo Levi Mitchell, “is going to impact defences in a different way.

“Teams were able to drop nine on us a lot last year and then react to when Messam got the ball ‘cause they weren’t worried about him getting outside and running away from everybody.

“I think that’s going to change this year. If you don’t play Terry the right away and he gets loose …

“I mean, you saw that on the kickoff returns, the punt returns, when he ran the ball. He can get out of initial trouble.

“And when he does, look out.”

On a first-pre-season night at McMahon Stadium chock-a-block with the usual gaffes and glitches, in a 36-23 loss to the invading B.C. Lions, Terry Williams – the man tipped to inherit the starting feature running back spot – got himself noticed.

“I just wanted to come in and put my best foot forward,’’ said the second-year tailback, being counted on to help pick up the slack in two critical areas with the departures of CFL leading rusher Jerome Messam and Special Teams Player of the Year Roy Finch. “The guys here, they push me every day.

“I did fairly well last year but I can’t hang my hat on that.

“The coaches here, they keep a fire lit underneath us. Nobody’s satisfied. Nobody takes anything for granted. Whatever happened last year? Out the window now.

Rob Cote, Roy Finch, Jerome Messam, those guys were leaders. They’re gone. I only played, what, five games last year?

“But I feel I have to help out in that regard. We all do.”

On Friday against the Leos, Williams finished with five totes out of the backfield for 47 yards (a 9.5 average), one punt return for 54 more and two kickoff haul-backs for an aggregate of 51.

The Stamps have one pre-season look left, next Friday at New Mosaic in Regina.

“It (the tailback spot) might be by committee,’’ reasoned Mitchell. “Terry’s a kick returner, too, and a very good one so it’ll be interesting to see how we end up doing this.”

Hopes are high after Williams put up 187 yards on 21 carries and a TD, 15 kickoff returns for 312 yards and five catches for 88 yards in five starts a year ago.

The 5-foot-9, 204-pound stick of blasting gelatine exploded into public consciousness in his first Stampeder start, Week 15 vs. Montreal, running for 156 yards to be named CFL player of the week.

“I thought Terry looked good,’’ adjudged head coach Dave Dickenson following Friday’s loss to the Leos. “He’s explosive and he did execute what we want. They were bringing a lot of edge pressure and I don’t think our running backs and O-line saw the rotation.

“I want to take a peek at film on that, see if we’re missing assignments. But as far as when he’s got the ball in his hands, he looked real good.”

With everyone deserving an audition and pre-season opportunity at an absolute premium, when a fella gets a shot, he’d better shine.

“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s tough to find a rhythm,’’ admitted Williams. “There are actually more running backs than last year.

“But I just try to stay warm and play the cards dealt to me. We’ve got a lot of really talented backs here. We all want time, we all want a chance.

“Whatever I can do, whatever they ask of me, whatever role they put me in, I want to help contribute.”

So far, so good.

“Terry’s had a really good camp and made great strides in understanding the offence in a year,’’ lauds running backs coach Marc Mueller. “He’s one of the guys you can lean on, that understands what we want and can help the new players.

“And obviously you see what happens when he touches the ball – big-time yards if he spots a crease. Great burst. A legitimate home-run threat.”

And as for trying to fill big shoes …

“He’s just got to be Terry. You don’t want anyone to be someone they’re not. Whether they’re Rob Cote or Jerome Messam or Jon Cornish. Whether your name’s Terry or Don, Romar or … whatever.

“Be yourself. That’s what we want you to be. That’s why you’re here. That’s why we like you.

“If he keeps progressing the way he has, just keeps building on what he’s doing, he’s going to be a pretty good player.”