Chamblin to wait to name starter for game versus Alouettes

The Canadian Press

9/14/2012 6:22:39 PM

REGINA -- Saskatchewan head coach Corey Chamblin will make an 11th-hour decision on his starting quarterback when the Roughriders visit the Montreal Alouettes on Sunday.

Veteran Darian Durant is nursing a hip flexor and did not practise this week. If he is not able to play, Chamblin will put the ball in the hands of Drew Willy, a rookie from the University of Buffalo.

Willy came off the bench in each of Saskatchewan's last two games, victories over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers by scores of 52-0 and 25-24.

Before the team left on a charter flight to Montreal on Friday, Chamblin told reporters he will make a decision following Saturday's walk-through practice.

"I want to see certain things from him," Chamblin said of Durant, who has completed 179 of 283 passes for 2,292 yards and 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions this season. He has also rushed 28 times for 286 and a touchdown.

According to Chamblin, Durant was anxious to practise on Friday, but the rookie head coach wanted to give him an additional day off. Asked if there was concern about aggravating the injury, Chamblin said: "It's not about (taking) a hit. It's more about how good does he feel about moving around out there?"

Aside from potential physical restrictions, Chamblin is confident that Durant is ready.

"Mentally, we test him and he's right there," Chamblin said.

A seven-year veteran, Durant has played through injuries in the past, but nothing as serious as a hip flexor. He said the frustrating thing about this kind of injury in particular is that "there's really no rehab -- it's just rest."

Complicating matters to some extent is the lengthy plane ride from Regina to Montreal. A non-stop flight takes approximately four hours.

"I'll definitely be walking up and down the aisle," Durant said with a smile.

Willy, who was tutored in Buffalo by Danny Barrett, a former CFL quarterback and Roughriders head coach, has completed 32 of 41 passes this season for 342 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He has also carried the ball 22 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns, but the majority of those carries have come as a replacement for Durant in short-yardage situations.

Although Willy has made a positive first impression as Durant's backup, Chamblin was quick to point out that "starting and relief are two different things."

Willy considers himself fortunate to have had three full practices working with the starting unit.

"I'm comfortable. I'm prepared. I'm ready," he said.

Willy told reporters he will respect Chamblin's decision either way and he is keeping the best interests of the team in mind.

"If (Durant) is ready to go, I'm sure he'll play well (regardless of not having practised all week," Willy said. "It's not his first rodeo."

Chamblin is hoping the mystery surrounding Saskatchewan's starting quarterback could work to the team's advantage, as the Alouettes' defence has to prepare for both Durant and Willy.

"It can't be easy for them," said Chamblin, who was an assistant coach on defence with the Calgary Stampeders and defensive co-ordinator with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before taking the head coach's job in Saskatchewan. "It was tough (preparing for two quarterbacks), depending on who the quarterbacks were. They've had to do double the homework, that's the main thing."