B.C. Lions: Receiving crew 'feed off each other's successes'

Second-year pass catcher Alexander Hollins has had a breakout season, sitting within striking distance of 1,000 yards receiving going into Friday’s visit against Saskatchewan.

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Count Alexander Hollins among those who maintain that the B.C. Lions’ receiving corps is just fine in sharing the glory.

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Hollins wasn’t the most recognizable name with the Lions’ pass-catchers when the CFL season kicked off. He was behind the likes of Dominique Rhymes, Lucky Whitehead, Keon Hatcher and Jevon Cottoy in that regard. 

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He has been a favourite target of quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. so far though, his team-leading totals for receiving yardage (936) and catches (62) putting him fourth and fifth in the CFL, respectively, in those categories going into this week. His six touchdown catches are tied for third-best in the league. 

Hollins’ production has dipped in the past two games, with five catches for 57 yards. His four games prior saw him go for 305 yards on 23 receptions, with four TDs. 

Hollins doesn’t seem the least bit panicky about any of his recent personal statistic trends. That’s undoubtedly helped along by the fact that B.C. (10-4) is duelling with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-4) for top spot in the West Division with the finish line for the 18-game regular season coming up quickly. The Lions carry a three-game win streak into a Friday visit to B.C. Place by the Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-8). 

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“We celebrate each others successes. It doesn’t matter what it is,” Hollins, 26, said of the Lions’ receivers. “It can be a six-yard catch by somebody and we celebrate it. It can be a first down and we celebrate it. It can be a touchdown and we really celebrate it. It can be being a decoy so that somebody else can catch the ball. We’ll celebrate it.

“We feed off each other’s successes as if they are our own. It doesn’t happen everywhere. There are some guys who can get frustrated when they don’t get the ball as much as they want. We love playing for each other.”

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Hollins does feel like he’s started to get extra attention from defences along the way. 

“There’s been a little double coverage and things like that. Whatever works for them,” said Hollins, a native of Yazoo, Miss., who played collegiately at Eastern Illinois. “When they want to have two guys on me we’ve got other guys. You want to key in on one guy and we’ve got three, four, five other guys who can also make plays.”

Leos head coach Rick Campbell added: “We’ve talked about our quarterback’s job being to distribute the ball where it is dictated and not getting caught up in throwing to specific guys.”

The Lions bring a big-play threat back into the mix this week, as Rhymes (knee) is set to come off the six-game injured list against Saskatchewan. 

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Rhymes (1,401 yards) was one of the three 1,000-yard receivers last year in the multi-dimensional B.C. attack put together by offensive coordinator Jordan Maksymic, along with Hatcher (1,043) and Whitehead (1,011). All three pass-catchers have missed time with injuries this year, which has played a role in the breakout of Hollins.

“The offence can get better. Way better. We’re bringing the Ferrari out,” Hollins said, borrowing a line from Campbell about Rhymes. 

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The perpetually upbeat and energetic Hollins was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2019 by the Minnesota Vikings and got into five regular-season games that year, making two catches for 43 yards. He was eventually dropped to their practice roster and then did a stint on the Cleveland Browns’ practice roster before signing with the Lions in March 2022 and joining their practice roster.

Campbell says that the Lions’ coaches were keen on getting Hollins promoted to the active roster last season. He performed well when he got that chance down the stretch and in the playoffs, including making a touchdown catch in the 28-20 loss to the Bombers in the West Final.

Campbell saw him as a starter coming into this year. There was a spot automatically open, too, with the retirement of Bryan Burnham.

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“He’s obviously very athletic and very shifty. He’s hard to tackle,” Campbell said of Hollins. “He’s also supersmart. Last year he was a backup guy and he knew all the spots. There are some guys who can only learn one receiver’s spot. He learned them all. He’s a guy that will learn and grow.”

As for his chase of a 1,000-yard season, Hollins says it wasn’t a goal he set going into the year.

“I just wanted to come in and execute,” the 6-foot, 175 pound Hollins said. “I was on the practice squad and then got the opportunity to play and I wanted to pick up where I left off last season. I wanted to be big for the offence, big for the team.”

Hatcher (931) is closing in on 1,000 yards receiving as well.

SEwen@postmedia.com

x.com/@SteveEwen

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