Sinorice Moss could fill void for Roughriders

The Saskatchewan Roughriders' No. 83 jersey is still assigned to someone with a highly recognizable name.

But that number now belongs to Sinorice Moss - not Andy Fantuz.

When the entire football universe is taken into consideration, Moss is better known than Fantuz, even though the latter was a popular and productive member of the Roughriders from 2006 to 2011 before signing with the Hamilton TigerCats as a CFL free agent.

Fantuz's departure created a void - but also an opportunity - for the Roughriders. Although the team faces a formidable challenge in attempting to replace a slotback of Fantuz's calibre, there is always the possibility that the Green and White will strike it rich while infusing a faster player into the lineup.

Could that person be Moss?

That is a question worth posing following the Roughriders' mini-camp, which was held Wednesday on Taylor Field and Thursday at the Moose Jaw FieldHouse. Moss, who committed to Saskatchewan shortly before last week's sessions, quickly turned heads by displaying the kind of speed that prompted the New York Giants to select him in the second round (44th overall) of the 2006 NFL draft.

"Once he learns how to play this game, I think that he can be an excellent player up here,'' Roughriders head coach Corey Chamblin said. "I think he can be a star in this league, just because of all the physical attributes that he has.''

Those attributes enabled the former University of Miami Hurricanes star to spend five seasons with the Giants. The younger brother of Washington Redskins star receiver Santana Moss caught 39 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns with the Giants while also serving as a kick returner.
Moss was released by the Giants in November of 2010, upon reaching an injury settlement with the team. He latched on with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011, only to be among their final cuts. Now he is hoping to make an imprint north of the border.

"It was an opportunity that presented itself,'' said Moss, 28.

"Loving the game of football, you always want to continue playing ball. Being in the NFL for the past six years, I was weighing my options there. When this opportunity presented itself, I prayed about it and spoke to my family. I wanted to make the transition and see where my future lies in the CFL.

"The NFL was still an option as well, but I just wanted to move forward and do what I had to do that was best for me. Coming here and taking this opportunity was best.''

The 5-foot-8, 185-pounder established contact with the Roughriders via his cousin, Greg Moss, who is a former defensive back with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Ottawa Renegades. Saskatchewan general manager Brendan Taman was Winnipeg's GM when Greg Moss - who had an interception against the Roughriders in the 2007 Grey Cup - played for the Bombers. Chamblin was Winnipeg's defensive backs coach in 2007.

Greg Moss's inquiry intrigued Taman, who promptly approached Chamblin and said: "Remember Sinorice Moss? He wants to play football in Canada.'' Shortly thereafter, Saskatchewan assistant GM Jeremy O'Day contacted Sinorice Moss's agent. A deal was done.

Where does all this lead? Who knows?

Not even a year ago in this space, Terrence Nunn was being touted as a sure-fire replacement for Fantuz - who missed the first half of the 2011 CFL season while trying out for the Chicago Bears.

In Nunn's case, the hype that surrounded him during training camp and in the pre-season proved to be unjustified. He was a nonfactor, and eventually a non-Roughrider. It was that kind of year.

Like Nunn, Moss is a smaller receiver - albeit one with more impressive credentials and, as was evident during the mini-camp, eyebrow-raising speed and quickness. On one squareout route in particular, Moss exploded out of a cut, scorched a would-be defender, and hauled in a pass.
"There's some jets to that engine,'' Taman observed.

The Roughriders desperately need a player of that description, as Chamblin has acknowledged during the off-season. Team speed was one of the team's primary deficiencies during a 2011 season in which the Roughriders finished with a 5-13 record, missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, and were excruciating to watch on offence.

That nightmarish season has led to a full-scale facelift, which has produced reputable recruits such as Moss.

"He comes from a family of speed,'' Chamblin said. "He's a guy who can run. I'm more impressed not with his speed, because a lot of guys have speed, but with the fact that there's not a lot of balls on the ground around him. I'm impressed with how he's matching his hands with his speed. I'm excited to see how it turns out with him.''

Moss sounds comparably enthused. Remember that he was the one who reached out to the Roughriders, with his cousin serving as the intermediary, in the hope of continuing his pro football career.

"The NFL was a lot of ups and a lot of downs and a lot of in-betweens,'' Moss said. "I've definitely enjoyed myself playing professional football and I plan on enjoying myself here as well.''

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