The test happens Tuesday – whether it’s possible to cobble a Grey Cup winner out of a former star quarterback from Edmonton and the former mentor of Montreal Alouettes star Anthony Calvillo.
Toronto Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich says he will keep the Alouettes’ past strategies – the ones he helped devise, and that worked well for Calvillo in making him a Grey Cup winner – locked in the past.
But the players, bolstered last Saturday by the arrival of former Als third-string quarterback Rick Santos, are primed to meet the former CFL champs Tuesday at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Milanovich started camp discarding comparisons of the Argos to his days in Montreal where he was the offensive master for two seasons. Ricky Ray, obtained from the Edmonton Eskimos, is his new No.1 weapon, he said in no uncertain terms after the first exhibition match last week in Hamilton.
Santos, once signed as a free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs before two tours of duty with the Als, will challenge for the backup’s role.
“I haven’t broken [the Alouettes] down, or spent one minute talking about, ‘Here’s what they like to do offensively and you should do this.’ We want to run the same stuff we ran all camp,” Milanovich said, “see that guys are more familiar with it and can execute it. We’re still looking for guys who can rush the passer and, offensively, guys who can block and run routes and catch the football.”
“It’s tough to live up to those standards,” Ray said of Calvillo. “He’s been impressive through his career and taken his game to another level.
“I don’t know how much comparing the coach does between me and him, but Anthony and I are similar in terms of being in the pocket and not being the guy scrambling around and making plays with our athletic ability. If there’s a difference, I’m more of a touch passer and he’s got a strong arm.”
The offensive line will have a new asset to defend in Santos, who was brought in when third string candidate Zach Collaros went down with an ankle injury. Collaros is expected to be sidelined for nine days – during which time sources say Santos will be aiming for Jarious Jackson’s backup position, rather than a third string job with Collaros and Trevor Harris.
Milanovich’s own transition from offensive coordinator to head coach is going well, according to Milanovich. “Everything’s been really smooth , and I have [general manager] Jim Barker to consult with who’s been a coach.”
Asked if it was his goal to create a second Calvillo with the 32-year-old Ray, Milanovich said he’d “like to reproduce the Grey Cups. … But they’re different quarterbacks. Ricky’s going to put his own stamp on this offence, and do the things he’s familiar with, that he excels at.”
Milanovich wasn’t part of the Toronto picture last year, when the Argos struggled to find a No.1 quarterback. “What happened in the past doesn’t matter anymore. A lot of bodies have changed, there’s a lot of new coaches, new everything.”
The coach is looking for a more disciplined team. “They’re grasping it and responding,” he said.
The Argos have more than an aerial attack going for them. Running back Cory Boyd is expected to get the ball most on the ground.
Gerald Riggs was an impressive ball carrier in a preseason 29-24 win last Wednesday over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Chad Kackert is back looking for a fulltime position and did a good job as an understudy for Boyd last season when Boyd was on the sidelines with injury.
“You can never have enough depth at that position,” Milanovich said.
In the Als camp there’s been a remake of the defence. Linemen Anwar Stewart and Eric Wilson were released in the winter, and most recently fifth-year veteran linebacker Diamond Ferri and safety Étienne Boulay were cut.
Head coach Marc Trestman and his staff spent last Friday going over film of a 22-10 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
One good factor in the loss to the Bombers was the work of backup quarterback Josh Neiswander, who led the Als to their major score on his first series while passing for 124 yards in two quarters.
As well, all three running backs in uniform – Noel Devine, Garrett Wolfe and Victor Anderson – had respectable performances against the Blue Bombers.