Riders' Andy Fantuz has potential for stellar season — if he can stay healthy

Rob Vanstone
Yahoo! Sports

REGINA — The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Andy Fantuz is the best receiver in the CFL who does not have a 1,000-yard season to his credit.

For now, anyway.

Head coach Ken Miller figures that Fantuz is good for “1,200 or 1,500 yards” if he can remain healthy. Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant is thinking in terms of CFL awards instead of numbers.

“If we can keep him healthy and put him in the right positions to make plays, I definitely see at least top Canadian in Andy,’’ Durant said. “To me, he’s one of the best receivers in this league, if not the best. Injuries have been hampering him a little bit the past couple of years, but he came to camp feeling good this year and hopefully it will carry over throughout the season.’’

Fantuz came close to 1,000 yards as a sophomore in 2007, making 56 catches for 978 yards. The former University of Western Ontario star would have almost certainly cracked the statistical milestone if he had not been rested in the regular-season finale, a meaningless game.

In the most meaningful game of Fantuz’s CFL career, he caught four passes for 70 yards and a touchdown as Saskatchewan defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 23-19 in the 2007 Grey Cup. Afterwards, Fantuz was named the game’s outstanding Canadian.

Fantuz was limited to seven regular-season games the following year because of a broken fibula. He had 36 receptions and 488 yards in 2008. The yardage total, extrapolated over a full 18 games, works out to 1,255.

In 2009, a torn hamstring limited Fantuz to 13 games. Nonetheless, he led the Roughriders in receptions (with 67) and registered 882 receiving yards. Those numbers, extrapolated once again, compute to 93 catches for 1,221 yards over 18 games.

Could this be the year that calculations are not required to classify Fantuz as a 1,000-yard receiver?

“That’s a nice little landmark to get to but, more importantly, I want a ring,’’ the 26-year-old slotback said. “I would sacrifice 10 1,000-yard seasons for a ring. That’s the goal, and they go hand-in-hand.’’

Fantuz is equally team-oriented when Durant’s comment about an outstanding-Canadian award is mentioned.

“I don’t want to make any predictions, but if we can just play to our best potential, it could be one of four of us on our receiving corps that could have that award, not just one person on our team,’’ said the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder, alluding to fellow non-import receivers Chris Getzlaf, Rob Bagg and Jason Clermont.

“We have outstanding Canadians on this team, but we always consider the receiving corps just receivers, not really Canadians and non-Canadians. We’re going to spread the ball around and see what happens. The main thing is helping the team out in any way I can.’’

The key is to help out over 18 games. With that in mind, Fantuz concentrated on strengthening his hamstrings during the off-season. If he needed any inspiration, Durant was always happy to be of service.

“I tell him all the time, ‘You have to make sure you do the things right, take care of your body, and make sure that you’re smart out here during practice,’ because game day is most important,’’ Durant said. “Of course, you want to get your work in during the week, but we have to have him for the game. That’s what I’ve been preaching to him.

“The sky’s the limit if we can have him out there for 18 games.’’

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