The Montreal Alouettes, and namely Jim Popp, have had a history of bringing in talented running backs who are under the radar. After the Alouettes 50-17 win over the B.C. Lions in the East Semi-Final, the latest on that list appears to be Brandon Rutley.
It’s become a trend for an anonymous backup to become a key starter for the Alouettes. Avon Cobourne was a kick return specialist and was once so buried on the depth chart at running back, he took reps at linebacker before becoming an all-star starter at running back.
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Cobourne’s backup was Brandon Whitaker. Whitaker’s backup is Tyrell Sutton who Don Matthews has compared to Mike Pringle and has looked good in the chances he’s had. Sutton went down, and Rutley ran for almost 100 yards – a number he surely would have eclipsed had it not been such a blow out – in a playoff game.
In fact, you could trace Popp’s ability to find running backs all the way back to the team’s Baltimore days when of course, Popp brought Pringle in. After Pringle, there were other big names who were under appreciated. Lawrence Phillips, Autry Denson, Robert Edwards and Jarrett Payton.
That doesn’t even count some who never got time due to injuries or other circumstances: Mike Imoh and Bruce Perry.
The fact is, it’s now a trend. Rutley being the latest in running backs to show their talent for the Alouettes.
It’s hard to imagine that someone can be cut off the practice roster, to stepping in to a playoff game and be so explosive, but that’s a testament to Rutley and the offensive line. The holes were there and Rutley (and later, Chris Rainey) ran through them.
It’s the type of performance that can start a career. Rutley has been around the CFL for three years but has only had three carries in regular season action. He was signed by the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 2012 after a career at San Jose State where Alouettes QB coach Jeff Garcia played his college ball.
After the 2012 season, he was released by Hamilton and Montreal picked him up in training camp this year. He played most of the second half in the Alouettes last pre-season game as both Whitaker and Sutton were unavailable.
He was released in August and then re-signed when Whitaker went down with a season-ending injury. He was then passed on the depth chart by Rainey, and then passed Rainey to get his first career start on Sunday.
It isn’t known whether Sutton will be back for the East Final, but you can be pretty sure that Rutley will be on the roster. And he will be able to stick it to his former team, who – ironically – have been dealing with injuries to their backfield throughout the season.
Whether Rutley (or even Sutton for that matter) will have the career of a Cobourne or Whitaker remains to be seen, but when the Alouettes are starting an unknown running back, maybe we should stop worrying as much.