CALGARY — With Bo Levi Mitchell the undisputed No. 1 quarterback in Calgary, training camp intrigue at that position shifts to his backup.
The Stampeders dealt former No. 2 Drew Tate to the Ottawa Roughriders for a draft pick in February, creating room behind Mitchell. Now three men with different football backgrounds are competing for the backup role, and the responsibilities and job security that brings.
Canadian Andrew Buckley, Calgary’s third-stringer who rushed for eight short-yardage touchdowns last year, the well-travelled CFL pivot Mitchell Gale and former NFL prospect Ricky Stanzi will get ample and equal opportunity to showcase their talents, says head coach Dave Dickenson.
“Don’t read too much into it, but I’m basically going to force the other three guys besides Bo to take all of certain practices,” Dickenson said Monday at McMahon Stadium.
“Bo has been around us, knows what he’s doing, so you’ll see certain practices those three guys will get all the reps.
“It’s more for me to try and make it a very even competition and make sure they get enough looks in practice that they’re solid in pre-season.”
The trio have just over a week of preparation for that. The Stampeders have a pair of exhibition games over a six-day span starting at home June 6 against the B.C. Lions followed by a June 11 game in Edmonton versus the Eskimos.
The pre-season will go a long way in determining where players will fall on Calgary’s depth chart.
“It’s big piece. It’s not the only piece though,” Dickenson said.
Buckley’s performance in the second of two pre-season games last year, when he completed 4-of-4 passes for 42 yards including a 22-yard completion, earned the Canadian university football star a job with the Stampeders.
“It’s nice going into camp knowing the playbook,” the 23-year-old said. “Last year going into camp, I knew the number one and two spots were kind of locked up.
“Going up into camp this year, I could potentially see the No. 2 job is open for the taking. That’s how I prepared my mindset, just go in and try and take No. 2.”
Mitchell, the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2016, will get the majority of game action this season as long as he’s healthy.
The Stampeders keep their backups involved in games, sending them out to carry the ball for short-yardage gains and to hold for kickers.
Buckley was a Hec Crichton Trophy winner with the University of Calgary Dinos two years ago. He ranked second in Stampeder touchdowns in 2016 with eight and scored another in the Grey Cup game. The six-foot, 203-pound pivot has thrown for only 124 yards, but he’s been on the field in pressure situations.
Gale was released by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in January after one season in which the 27-year-old threw for 1,057 yards and three touchdowns behind starter Darian Durant. The six-foot-one, 225-pound Abeline Christian product also had previous stops in Toronto and Hamilton.
“I’ve played games, I’ve started multiple games, I’ve been back there under fire in the heat of the moment,” Gale said.
Six-foot-four and 228 pounds, the 29-year-old Stanzi faces a steep learning curve in Canadian football that Buckley and Gale don’t. He was a fifth-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011.
“I definitely feel a sense of urgency,” Stanzi said. “You need to learn quick and apply what you learned to the field, so that you can show you know what you’re doing, you can play well and if you are needed to go in and move the ball you do that.”
In other camp news, a preliminary hearing began Monday for the man accused of murdering Stampeder defensive back Mylan Hicks last September.
Hicks was shot in a parking lot after an altercation in a Calgary bar spilled outside.
Nelson Tony Lugela is charged with second-degree murder.
Several Stampeders who were at the bar that night are expected to testify in the five-day hearing.