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Roughriders to give Drew Willy work with starting offence

Saskatchewan Roughriders' Drew Willy (5) scrambles for yards against Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Jason Vega (98) and Henoc Muamba (10) during the second half of their CFL game in Winnipeg Sunday, September 9, 2012.

John Woods/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Last week's assignment was as surprising as it was difficult: come off the bench and replace Saskatchewan Roughriders' injured starting quarterback Darian Durant.

But will Drew Willy's second test be far more demanding? Could the rookie pivot start for Durant this Sunday in Montreal against the East Division-leading Alouettes?

Willy was the second-stringer to the rescue in last Sunday's 25-24 win against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He stepped in for Durant, who strained a hip flexor in the first quarter, then guided the 'Riders to a touchdown on his first series. Willy then set up the game-winning field goal with another smart drive.

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Saskatchewan general manager Brendan Taman said Durant will dress and be on the roster for Sunday's game in Montreal against the Alouettes. 'Riders' head coach Corey Chamblin agreed and told the Regina Leader-Post Durant is expected to play in Montreal. But just in case, the 25-year-old Willy will get plenty of practice time this week with the starting offence.

"If you were a betting man, you might bet (Willy) would play," said Taman, who credited the 'Riders' personnel director Craig Smith for scouting Willy when he played at the University of Buffalo. "Craig watched him play and we put him on our negotiation list a year ago. There's just something about him."

Quiet and poised, Willy wasn't all that flashy when the 'Riders invited him to a free agent tryout camp in Florida. (Running back Korey Sheets attended the same workout.) At the team's main training camp, the more the coaches watched Willy, the more they liked the way he picked up their system.

"He was very efficient. He runs the offence very well," said Taman. "He's never started a CFL game in his life, though, and that's the next step."

The 'Riders will also take a long look at receiver Weston Dressler this week after he suffered a head injury in the Winnipeg game.

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Sports writer

Allan Maki is a national news reporter and sports writer based in Calgary. More

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