Sunday, June 14, 2015
Marc Mueller Continues To Evolve as a Coach in Calgary
The past calendar year has been a giant learning experience for Marc Mueller.
But after spending his first season on the Calgary Stampeders coaching staff as a defensive assistant, the former University of Regina quarterback and grandson of the legendary Ron Lancaster is back where he feels most comfortable, on the offensive of the football.
Over the off-season, Mueller was moved to running backs coach, with Brent Monson being flipped to linebackers coach, where he spent the 2009 and '10 seasons with the Stamps.
"I'm used to playing offence being a quarterback and coaching quarterbacks at the U of R, so it just comes faster," Mueller said this week after spending part of his morning testing out the arm that set numerous school records with the Rams by spinning footballs to his backfield charges in individual drills.
His first year on GM/head coach John Hufnagel's staff wasn't supposed to be about comfort. It was about getting Mueller's feet wet and giving him a different perspective.
Now, however, he's eager to learn even more in Year 2 from two men with lengthy offensive resumes.
"You couldn't ask for better guys to learn from than Huff and (offensive co-ordinator) Dave (Dickenson), two of the best offensive minds in the history of the league," Mueller said. "Just try to keep learning every day and get better and, hopefully, take what I've learned and continue to win football games."
Mueller has five running backs and four fullbacks under his watchful eye in training camp, and it's an enviable spot to be in, considering the level of talent.
The intriguing camp battle when it comes to the running backs is between American tailbacks Keith Toston, who spent last season languishing in a messy Saskatchewan Roughriders backfield, and Tory Harrison, who has won back-to-back Indoor Football League championships with the Sioux Falls Storm.
"They're both really good backs," Mueller said. "They both bring unique traits, but they both can really succeed in our offence because they're good running backs who both like getting to the second level and they can both make guys miss."
They're fighting for the right to be the Jon Cornish insurance policy, in case lightning strikes twice and the backfield is decimated by injuries for a second year in a row.
Five different running backs started for the Stampeders in '14, but the rushing attack didn't suffer one bit as the ground game still churned out a CFL-best 143.9 yards per game.
Dickenson wants a guy who can carry the load waiting in the wings.
"What I want is for them to show us they can be the feature guy -- both of them," Dickenson said of the battle between Toston and Harrison. "We really have some tough decisions at running back in how many we're going to keep, and all the guys seem to be performing quite well."
Harrison spent two weeks on the practice roster last August, right around the time the Stamps were searching high and low for ball-carriers.
"I'm just glad I got a chance to come in for a little while and let the coaches see what I can do," Harrison said. "I definitely think I can be a good fit in this league and to this team. With my skills, I can catch out of the backfield and also run between the tackles and, I think, any team could use that."