LENNOXVILLE, QC -- Perhaps, simply leading the league in rushing wasn’t quite good enough for Alouettes running back Brandon Whitaker.
“I left a lot on the field last year and there are a bunch of things I’ve been working to improve on,” said Whitaker shortly after practice at Coulter Field at Bishop’s University this week.
Though Whitaker has been a member of the Alouettes organization since 2008, it was just prior to training camp one year ago when Als fans finally began taking notice of the 26-year old Baylor product.
With Avon Cobourne – a key factor in Montreal’s back-to-back Grey Cup championships – in Hamilton, head coach Marc Trestman declared that the starting running back position was Whitaker’s job to lose.
And he certainly did not disappoint.
Whitaker proved to be a dual-threat all season long, registering 1,381 rushing yards, while tacking on 638 yards through the air as well – both tops among all starting running backs.
Despite the success, however, Whitaker still feels he has plenty more to improve on.
“There are a lot of things I need to improve on,” said Whitaker.
“I watched a lot of film during the off-season. I tried to improve on my blocking and giving up fewer fumbles,” he added.
Whitaker spent his summer in his home state of Oklahoma, working with his trainer Luke Tirey.
It was there where he heard of all the changes the Als underwent during the winter.
The biggest change for Whitaker will be the absence of former offensive coordinator Scott Milanovich, who is currently the head coach for the Argonauts.
Because of Milanovich’s departure, Marcus Brady has assumed the offensive coordinator position.
Whitaker, however, insists that the change of personnel won’t affect his game.
“Marcus was actually a teammate of mine when I first joined the organization,” he said.
“It’s great to see how much he’s grown and how much I’ve grown under his guidance. He was the mastermind of a lot of the great things we’ve been accomplishing over the years,” explained Whitaker.
There’s no question that Whitaker has grown throughout his time spent in Montreal. Now, he’s focused on taking the next step, hoping to reach the level of a consistent, elite tailback.
Much like many other professional athletes, Whitaker has a number in his head that he uses as a mark for success. Although he won’t share it with anyone but himself, he says it’s just a minor spec of what truly is a big picture.
“What I’m really focused on this year is just doing better as a team, winning more games and getting back to the Grey Cup.”
One way that Whitaker might reach his secret goal is through internal competition.
TC12: East Training Camps
The Alouettes currently have six other running backs on the training camp roster, none more so known than Fred Reid, a former CFL rushing king himself.
Reid is in Montreal working out with team trainers while rehabbing an injury, and has yet to participate in any drills.
Whitaker welcomes the competition presented by Reid, regardless of where he ends up fitting within the team structure.
"Fred Reid is a great running back", Whitaker told CFL.ca. "When I first entered the league he was the big dog. Bottom line is that it's competition and that's great, it brings out the best in me."
It seems as though the best has yet to come for Brandon Whitaker.