REGINA - From the moment he joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders as a free agent in 2008, Hugh Charles has been considered the heir apparent to veteran running back Wes Cates.
Charles has been biding his time patiently on special teams but he could take over the top job in the backfield as soon as Saturday when the Roughriders (1-3) welcome the Calgary Stampeders (2-2).
Cates is nursing an undisclosed lower-body injury sustained in last weekend's 27-24 victory over the Montreal Alouettes, and Riders head coach Greg Marshall said Friday a decision on his status for Saturday's game won't be made until the last minute.
Either way, Charles will figure prominently in Saskatchewan's offensive strategy against Calgary and said he has a lot to offer.
"I'm ready to fill his shoes," Charles said of Cates with a smile.
When asked what qualities he brings to Saskatchewan's attack, his response was equally blunt: "Speed and elusiveness."
In four games this season, Cates has 217 yards rushing and three touchdowns, while Charles has picked up 35 yards on the ground.
"There is a little pressure," Charles said of the potential starting assignment. "But you don't want to get caught up in that. You have to go out there and just do your job."
Charles's full-time job to this point has been running back kickoffs. He's averaging 28 yards a return but the workload on special teams could be lightened on Saturday night.
"When guys play regularly at a position and also on special teams, you keep an eye on them," Riders assistant coach Craig Dickenson said. "He'd be in there for every play if it was his choice.
Riders quarterback Darian Durant said Charles is ready to step in if needed.
"I expect Hugh to be Hugh," Durant said. "He's an explosive player. We have to find a way to get him the ball."
Last weekend in Montreal, a more balanced offence was key in bringing Saskatchewan its first victory after three straight losses.
"I thought we ran the ball better," slotback Weston Dressler said when asked what factored into the dramatic turnaround following an embarrassing 33-3 road loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Week 3.
Productive outings from Dressler this season are critical, given the absence of fellow receivers Andy Fantuz, who signed with the NFL's Chicago Bears, and Rob Bagg, who has been sidelined with an injury.
Terrence Nunn and Efrem Hill are new to the Riders receiving corps, joining Dressler, Chris Getzlaf, and Jason Clermont.
"We'd been together for a few years," Dressler said of the previous group. "When you throw in a couple of new guys, there's an adjustment that has to be made.
"Adjustments take time. We're getting more comfortable with each other with every game."
The Stampeders defence has not been blitzing as often this season, but it still relies heavily on man-to-man coverage.
"Man, they get up in your face," Marshall said.
Dressler considers the tactic a challenge.
"We all do," he said. "When a defence plays a lot of man coverage, we take it personally. You go out and try to win those man-on-man battles."
Calgary has won both of its road games this season, while Saskatchewan is winless in two games at home.