Former Argo gets his shot with Ticats

Hamilton's Armando Murillo (back) helps bring down Calgary Stampeder Jon Cornish last week. An...

Hamilton's Armando Murillo (back) helps bring down Calgary Stampeder Jon Cornish last week. An injury to halfback Bo Smith has Murillo lining up as the Ticats starting weakside halfback against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Thursday night. (Reuters)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:53 PM ET

Defensive back Armando Murillo opened some eyes during Argos training camp a year ago but was the odd man out once the season started.

He spent the bulk of the year on the team’s practice roster refining his craft and playing the role of opposing defences.

He was back in camp this year with the Argos but didn’t survive cutdown day and headed home to Tampa wondering if his professional football career was over before it got started.

Turns out it wasn’t and part of the reason was that work he put in while on the Argos’ practice roster.

Among the players he was matched up against every week was new Ticats receiving coach Jeremaine Copeland who came away suitably impressed. Impressed enough to recommend Murillo when the Tabbies ran into some injury woes in the secondary.

That recommendation and one from Argos secondary coach Orlondo Steinauer helped get Murillo a chance with the Ticats who were in need of some reinforcements when the injury bug started to take a bite out of their secondary.

An injury to halfback Bo Smith has given Murillo his chance this week. He will line up as the Ticats starting weakside halfback.

Murillo has only been here a couple of weeks but he considers himself a quick study and the Tabbies really don’t have many other options.

“He is still learning but we are in a situation where we think he will do a good job,” Ticats defensive coordinator Casey Creehan said. “He is being asked to step up and play very soon in his career here so ready or not, here we come with him.”

With a couple of weeks of practice under his belt including this past one alongside the rest of the Ticats starters, Murillo is quietly confident he can answer the call.

“I have been playing football my whole life,” he said. “All I need to do is get reps with it. I understand the concepts. I just needed to be out there doing it at full speed, in the heat of the moment.”

Murillo will join a defence that has done a solid job defending the pass this season, but has been suspect against the run.

Hamilton’s defence has allowed a league high 145 yards a game rushing so far this year.

Creehan is well aware of the numbers but feels people aren’t necessarily taking everything into account when they start to criticize his unit.

He points to last week’s loss to Calgary as an example.

The Stampeders broke the game open in the second half eating up some sizable real estate with the ground game. Linebacker Carlos Thomas, already in for the injured Markeith Knowlton, was hurt himself in the game. The Cats turned to their third option in Craig Ray who wasn’t exactly familiar with the position.

“Craig Ray is going to be a fine football player but most of his reps here have been at free safety, not at nickle,” Creehan said. “We have to get backups upon backups trained and that’s on me. I will get that done from now on.”

And while the Winnipeg offence has been anything but explosive so far this season (they’re having more than their own share of injuries woes), they do have a running back in Chad Simpson who is quite capable of hurting Hamilton.

Simpson has average 6.4 yards a carry since returning from a leg injury three games ago. The Bombers lost starting tailback Chris Garrett in the pre-season when he tore his Achilles.

“He’s a very good player,” Creehan said of Simpson. “He brings a lot of challenges to the table. You could be set up well and everyone is where they need to be and he can still make you miss.”

And it’s going to be on everyone from the front four all the way back to the safety to make sure Simpson doesn’t run wild on the Ticats.

Murillo knows this only too well and he’s ready to do his part.

“I’m ready, I’m excited and thankful for the opportunity. Ready to go,” he said.

INJURY UPDATE

Receiver Andy Fantuz was once again a spectator at practice which pretty much cements his absence from the roster for the Winnipeg game. Fantuz is still dealing with concussion-like symptoms after taking a hit in the first half of the loss to Calgary.

STALA DOING JUST FINE, REALLY!

The numbers suggest quarterback Henry Burris and receiver Dave Stala aren’t quite on the same page just yet.

Burris says the stats are misleading.

Stala has had one big game for the Ticats this season, hauling in six receptions for 96 yards in the loss to B.C in Week 2.

Other than that, the numbers are down. Stala has a total of 12 receptions for 150 yards this year and one touchdown.

Burris said that is more a function of what opposing defences are taking away from the Ticats then any supposed chemistry issues between the two veterans.

“It’s not so much us hooking up, it’s more what the defence is giving us,” Burris said when asked why he and Stala haven’t clicked as well as he and some of the other Ticats. “Andy Fantuz has had big games, Dave has had a big game,” Burris pointed out. “Every receiver has had a big game so it’s more what they are giving us. I’m not trying to force the ball. I’m just going through my reads and with that wealth of talent out there (at receiver) it really doesn’t matter who you go to because they can all make plays. It’s all predicated on what the defence gives me and that’s where the ball is going to go.”

 


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