Durie putting the 'C' back in CFL

Argos wide receiver Andra Durie is well on his way towards establishing himself as the top Canadian...

Argos wide receiver Andra Durie is well on his way towards establishing himself as the top Canadian in the CFL. (GREG HENKENHAF/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:44 PM ET

The day will soon arrive when Andre Durie establishes himself as the top Canadian in the CFL.

Whether that day arrives this year or next season, Durie is well on his way in being a playmaker who can line up in the backfield or line up as a receiver.

So unique are Durie's talents that his potential to be a presence has no boundary.

His athletic prowess notwithstanding, it's the intangibles Durie brings to the field, be in a practice setting or when football's figuratively speaking bullets are flying for real, that will ultimately separate Durie from his peers.

And he's Canadian, a feel-good story in a league dotted with players overcoming the odds.

Think of versatile players and there aren't many non-imports who come to mind when multi-dimensional skills get broached.

Durie is the exception, an exceptional person who is excelling, whose ceiling has yet to be reached.

Head coach Jim Barker invokes the name Pinball Clemons and recalls the progression Clemons made in 1996 when this multi-purpose role became a staple of the Doug Flutie led offence.

"It took Pinball half a year to get it," Barker reminisced.

"In 1997, Pinball was a receiver first whom you could always put into the backfield."

When he took over this off-season, Barker saw film of Durie and envisioned this dual threat.

"You just have to be patient," Barker added.

"Andre is learning to be a receiver and you can't force feed things. That's why we're bringing him along slowly, having his role evolve.

"We want to utilize his talents and develop other talents."

Durie's story of persevering through a debilitating knee injury he suffered at York University is well documented.

His story of emerging into a prime-time player began last season when he was asked to line up as a receiver on scout teams, the unit that goes up against the first-team defence in practice.

With so few receivers available, the Argos turned to Durie.

When GM Adam Rita began to notice Durie as a receiving threat, the seed was planted.

Barker and his staff have nurtured it, bringing Durie along in a methodical, well-conceived plan that is just now beginning to bear fruit.

Durie is often in motion, will occasionally line up in a two-back set with Cory Boyd, will run out of the backfield or be used in the slot.

Given his background as a running back, Durie's instincts as a receiver when running a pass route required a change, an adjustment that requires repetition and experience.

"Being a running back, as soon as I see a hole, I hit it," said Durie. "It's full go. As a receiver, you have to gauge your speed, there's so much of a timing element with the quarterback, with the receivers. I feel it's getting better each week."

His route running improves, his ability to catch the football is getting better, his reads on what kind of man coverage or zone more heightened.

"Every week the coaches are tweaking something," added Durie. "Every week, we keep adopting. What makes it great from my perspective is how the coaches are able to teach things that make a lot of sense."

Versatility is one of the hallmarks of an Argos offence that failed to produce a touchdown against the Ticats two weeks ago in a 16-12 loss.

Durie's efforts weren't lost in the loss as he earned top Canadian in Week 8. Last year when he saw duty as a return guy, Durie earned top special-teams player.

Because Durie is often used in motion, if a defender follows Durie it means the defence is in man coverage.

"It's the instant indicator," Durie continued.

"Then you have to read what kind of man coverage that particular opponent is in or what kind of zone if no one follows you in motion."

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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