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Even after 100-yard TD, DeVonte Dedmon in numbers game for Redblacks

When you’re a receiver, you come to training camp and they hand you jersey No. 79, you know you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.

That was what DeVonte Dedmon got when he showed up at Ottawa Redblacks camp a couple of weeks ago, but a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Saturday’s 25-21 preseason game loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats could earn him a promotion into the No. 80s or in the teens if he makes it through this weekend’s roster cutdown.

Redblacks receivers coach Winston October, who coached Dedmon at The College of William & Mary, knows how it goes and had a word with the 23-year-old early in camp.

“I used to tell them back at William & Mary, ‘My pro career didn’t start the way I thought it would, I got No. 77 when I showed up in Montreal (with the Alouettes) and I was a defensive back.’ I wondered, ‘Why am I wearing a lineman’s number,’” October said following Tuesday’s practice, the final full on-field session of training camp. “It’s funny, it’s come full circle. (Dedmon) walks by me and says, ‘Is this a joke? Is this on purpose?’ I was like, ‘Hey, you have to earn your number.’ I had to earn my number when I was in Montreal. I went from 77 to 11.”

It’s not a given Dedmon will have a roster spot for the Redblacks going into the Canadian Football League regular season. There’s competition for jobs as receiver and as kick returner.

“I’m doing what I can do, balling the best I can, trying to take advantage of the opportunity and let the people with the numbers handle the numbers,” Dedmon said. “When the ball’s in my hands, I just try to do the best I can, my mentality is to get it into the end zone.”

Obviously, there were a lot of contributors on his touchdown run nearly the length of the field.

“My teammates made every block I needed,” Dedmon said. “They parted the sea for me and I just ran through. The coaches tell me I have to make one guy miss … and I made the guy miss the tackle and that was it.”

Said October: “I joked with him, I said, ‘My daughter could have run through that.’ It takes the other 11 guys blocking hard. From my experience, when you have a guy back there that can do those types of things, it energizes the other players. As long as he continues to stay humble and understand he can’t do it all by himself, he potentially could have a good career in the CFL. But we’re still in training camp mode and Ryan Lankford’s also having a good camp.

“We’ll see how things unfold, but does he have the ability to play in this league? I think he does. You think about guys like Keith Stokes, Pinball (Clemons), Bashir Levingston … it’s a knack those returners had. (Dedmon) possesses that. Can he continue to do it day in and day out? That’s the question. You’re only as good as your last game.”

In his final season at William & Mary, Dedmon caught 40 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns, but he was limited to one kickoff return for 40 yards.

“The coaches tell me if I get the opportunity, I have to make the best of it,” Dedmon said. “It happens, then you have to move on. Coach O has always told me, ‘Next play, next play.’ It’s never about what happened in the past, you have to keep moving forward.”

Dedmon should get a good look in Thursday’s pre-season game in Montreal. Then the Redblacks will face some tough final decisions in trimming the roster before Saturday’s deadline.

“He’s a dynamic player, but he has a lot to learn about being a pro,” October said. “What you see is what he is. He was special teams player of the year his sophomore year in the state of Virginia and special teams player of the year in the whole conference.”

STARTERS SITTING: It’s not expected that starting quarterback Dominique Davis or backup Jonathon Jennings will play Thursday in Montreal. Look for several other starters to get breaks, too. “We have to have the correct amount of people playing, but there will be an emphasis on giving new guys a shot so we don’t miss out on anybody,” Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell said. “Last game, there was a lot of rotation. I anticipate less of that this game … a guy can get in and play the position for a long time. There are guys competing to be on the roster and the practice roster. (Davis and Jennings) are definitely going to go with us. We’ll figure it out, but don’t expect to see them much, if at all.”

RUNNING BACK DEBATE: Look for Mossis Madu to be the starter at running back to open the season, but John Crockett turned heads Saturday by rushing for 54 yards on seven carries, and Dalton Crossan should get a lot of work Thursday. “There’s no reason to believe Mossis can’t be our starter and do a great job,” Campbell said. “Mossis has been excellent, he’s done everything we’ve asked. But I’m going to keep an open mind. There have been times we’ve dressed two tailbacks. When you think back, any year we’ve had success, we’ve had more than one good guy at the position. If we go with one, I’d be totally fine with Mossis.”

THE END AROUND: The Redblacks signed linebacker Drew Morris (Acadia) and defensive back Monteze Latimore (Central Missouri) and released linebacker John Vogeler … On, linebacker Shaheed Salmon, whose nickname is Diesel, is listed as retired, while defensive back Kishawn McClain is listed as suspended … Offensive lineman Chris Martin hasn’t practised in a couple of days, but Stephane Nembot is back. “We’re excited about him, we’re glad to have him back,” Campbell said. “He’s a guy who hasn’t played a ton of football, but he’s big-bodied, he has the right attitude and you can see him grow by the day.” … After tying for the CFL lead in interceptions (with five) last season, defensive back Jonathan Rose still wants to see more improvement. “I’m not competing against anybody, I’m just trying to be better than I was. Hopefully that will get me to the top of the league,” Rose said. “Every year I’ve elevated my stats. As a player, I’ve learned. I’ve become more of playmaker and game manager.” … The Saskatchewan Roughriders released former Redblacks kicker Felix Ménard-Brière … The Edmonton Eskimos released former Redblacks defensive back Mikael Charland.

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