‘Both of them can be starters’: Bombers’ Mike O’Shea confident in Canadians Brady Oliveira, Johnny Augustine replacing Andrew Harris

Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea has confidence in both of his young Canadian running backs who will step into the role left by Andrew Harris.

Nationals Brady Oliveira and Johnny Augustine were re-signed prior to free agency in February while Harris was forced to leave when the market opened, signing with the Toronto Argonauts.

“He helped us get to two Grey Cups and turn this organization around. Unfortunately in professional sports things like this happen and it’s not great for anybody. Andrew has moved on to a situation in Toronto and we’ll figure out the plans for our running back situation — it is what it is,” general manager Kyle Walters said.

Oliveira suited up for 13 games with the Bombers, starting six, during the shortened 2021 regular season. He carried the football 94 times for 429 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and two touchdowns while adding nine catches for 74 yards.

Augustine dressed in 14 games last year, rushing 40 times for 285 yards, averaging 7.1 yards per carry. He had single-game career highs of 23 carries for 148 yards against Calgary in Week 16.

Courtesy: AP Photo/Larry MacDougal

“We feel quite confident that they can step in and both of them can be starters for us in this league. It’s an exciting time for them and we’ll let that play out also, but I imagine both guys are going to be fairly active for us,” head coach Mike O’Shea said.

“They’ve grown professionally, they’ve grown as young men. They can handle the entire playbook, they have the skill set to do everything we ask them to do and do it at a high level. Not just with the ball in their hands but in terms of protection and route running ability.”

Oliveira and Augustine have both started games in the backfield for the Blue Bombers. The Winnipeg native was selected in the second round, 14th overall during the 2019 CFL Draft while his counterpart and physical specimen went unselected in 2017. Both men took different paths to CFL careers, one through the NCAA and U Sports, but O’Shea doesn’t have a favourite to start the year No. 1 on the depth chart.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to win that game that week. Whatever that’s going to look like is going to be fine,” O’Shea said.

“We look at every single week with the same standard of preparation but in terms of how you get the win it can be different from week-to-week. Whatever we gotta do to allow our team to get a victory, that’s what we’re going to do.”

For the last four seasons the Bombers have led the West Division in rushing yards due in large part to Harris. After moving on from the hometown hero, Winnipeg will try to do it again with Oliveira and Augustine as the featured backs.