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Alouettes hunt for Calvillo's successor may end at shaggy-haired Crompton

Montreal Alouettes' quarterback Jonathan Crompton (18) gets sacked by Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Bryant Turner (92) during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg on August 22, 2014. Jonathan Crompton, whose flowing locks are to be donated to charity, is ready to start at quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes. Just don't suggest he may be the struggling team's saviour. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

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Montreal Alouettes' quarterback Jonathan Crompton (18) gets sacked by Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Bryant Turner (92) during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg on August 22, 2014. Jonathan Crompton, whose flowing locks are to be donated to charity, is ready to start at quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes. Just don't suggest he may be the struggling team's saviour. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

MONTREAL - The Montreal Alouettes hope they have finally found their starting quarterback in shaggy-haired Jonathan Crompton.

But as promising as the 26-year-old looked in his first game last week in a 24-16 loss in Winnipeg, it is too early to think of Crompton as the one who might save what has been a disastrous 2014 CFL season for Montreal after a 1-7 start.

"Not even close," Crompton said Wednesday. "I've only played three quarters of football.

"I haven't even played a full game yet, so I just have to do my job, do what the coaches tell me to do, and things will take care of themselves. I really think we have a good team around us."

That will be put to the test on Friday night when the Alouettes, trying to end a six-game losing streak, face the expansion Ottawa Redblacks at Percival Molson Stadium.

After taking most of the first-team snaps in practice this week, Crompton is expected to get his first CFL start, even if coach Tom Higgins would not confirm it.

In a 24-16 loss last week in Winnipeg, Crompton replaced starter Alex Brink in the second quarter and went 18-for-29 for 266 yards.

Although he threw three interceptions, the Asheville, N.C., native looked more poised and effective than the three other pivots to see action so far this season: the now-injured Troy Smith, Brink and Tanner Marsh.

It looks like Higgins is ready to give Compton his chance to seize the job.

"He understands what we're doing," said Higgins. "The players seem to rally around him.

"He's a take-control type of young man. Adversity doesn't seem to affect him. He just goes back out and keeps flinging the football. They're all really good signs. We just hope that he can pick up where he left off last week."

The search for a replacement for retired all-time passing leader Anthony Calvillo has been a trial, but two things were apparent in Winnipeg: Crompton looked like he knows what he's doing on the field, and he has really long hair.

It turns out that he is growing his hair to donate to the Locks For Love program, which provides hairpieces to kids under 21 who have lost theirs due to illness, notably cancer. It will be cut when it reaches 10 inches long, which should be soon.

The poise in the pocket comes partly from the experience he picked up as a rookie last season in Edmonton, where, with neatly trimmed hair and beard, he got into eight games as backup to Mike Reilly.

"Being my first year up here and getting acclimated to a new game was fun," said Crompton, who completed 30 of 58 passes for 451 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions for the Eskimos. "I enjoy it up here and I enjoy being in Montreal.

"It's more fun because I have relatives from here. I just have to learn to speak a little French. It's harder than it looks."

Crompton's grandmother's sister and her family are the Montreal wing of a clan that has outposts in Canada, the United States, Morocco and Israel.

"This is a place I've always wanted to play because of that," he said. "Now it's another incentive for my grandma to come up and visit me and them at the same time. I'm blessed to be here and I'm looking forward to the opportunity."

Last season, Crompton looked to have settled in as Reilly's backup, but he was cut during training camp this season as the Eskimos opted to go with Pat White and Matt Nichols. He signed a three-year contract with Montreal on July 15 and started the season fourth on the depth chart.

Now, he should get a shot at being Number One.

"Everybody wants to play, so it's not whether one person is playing, it's making sure we have 12 guys on the same page," he said. "I think we've really come together as a team.

"Every day you prepare like you're the starter. If you're not mentally prepared, that's when your number will get called and things don't go your way. Everyone here, in every position, is ready to go."

Higgins confirmed that James Rodgers, brother of Atlanta Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers, will start against Ottawa. Rodgers, who signed on Aug. 6, will return kicks in place of Larry Taylor, who has a knee injury.

He also said that receiver Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson has been cleared to return from an injury, but that he has not yet decided if he will play.

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