Since the Edmonton Eskimos shocked the CFL by firing general manager Eric Tillman just after the end of the regular season a few days ago, the other guessing game has revolved around the key on-field personnel for Sunday’s Eastern semi-final — specifically, who would take the snaps from centre and what the offensive backfield would look like.
After the Calgary Stampeders decided on Tuesday that Drew Tate would start at the controls in the Western semi on Sunday, now the speculation has turned north onto Highway 2 to Alberta’s capital. The Eskies have rotated all three of its quarterbacks for several weeks now with none of them seizing the role of No. 1, so it’s legitimate to wonder who would begin the game against the Toronto Argonauts at the Rogers Centre.
Likely it won’t be Steven Jyles, who came over in the Ricky Ray deal but has played himself out of the starter’s role. If that’s the case, then it’s between Kerry Joseph — who won the 95th Grey Cup and was voted the league’s Most Outstanding Player in 2007 — and rookie Matt Nichols. The 23-year-old Eastern Washington University product acquitted himself well in his second start as a professional, completing 18 of 30 pass attempts for 341 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-27 loss to the Stampeders Nov. 2. His first start in the pros was also against Calgary on Sept. 28, where he went 14-for-26 for 167 yards and a TD, but again the Eskimos went down to defeat 39-15.
Another question which has to be answered by head coach Kavis Reed — who has also been rumored to be in the running for the now-vacant GM job — is the scheme for the running backs. Hugh Charles had been the featured tailback since coming over from Saskatchewan shortly after Tillman was hired in Edmonton, but he has missed the last two games after injuring his right knee.
Now Charles has been cleared to play and says he feels “100 percent,” but there has been no word on whether he would actually play. “A lot of times, whenever someone gets injured it’s just a matter of time,” Charles said. “You can only do so much to heal an injury and this specific injury I had just needed some time to heal, and I’m not feeling any affects from it.”
For now, Reed is saying nothing publicly about Charles’ status or how Jerome Messam and Cory Boyd will be incorporated into the attack, or who will be calling the signals. The decisions Reed does make when the time comes will have a significant impact not only on the Eskimos’ fortunes, but his own as well.