Strangers in the night

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:10 PM ET

It's a good thing the Argonauts have names on their jerseys for tomorrow's home opener.

At least the players will know who they're high-fiving. Or, in case of chaos, fans will know what to call the dunderhead who dropped the ball.

"We're not rebuilding," coach Michael Clemons said. "But we've got a lot of new blood and it's going to take a while for everything to sort itself out."

The team has 15 new faces on its 46-man roster. Much of the change has come on offence with the addition of offensive co-ordinator Steve Burrato, quarterback Mike McMahon, a young Canadian receiver in Obed Cetoute and running back Jamel White.

In tomorrow's opener, White will line up behind quarterback Damon Allen although Clemons played coy yesterday.

In any case, he said all three -- McMahon, Allen and Michael Bishop will play during the first part of the schedule and he might not designate anyone as No. 1.

"Having two quarterbacks is more common than uncommon," Clemons said.

Still, the biggest evolution may not be at quarterback but on the oft-maligned offensive line.

Veterans Chad Folk and Jude St. John are joined by Steve Morley and tackle Mike Pearson. The biggest addition is CFL all-star Taylor Robertson, and not just because he's 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds -- which even in this land of giants is jumbo-sized.

In all, there are five new offensive linemen, giving the Argos something old, something new and something Clemons hopes will make defences black and blue. "We'll see an offence that does more things," he said. "We'll be more varied ... run more, but I don't mean we're going to dull it down."

Nothing could be as bad as last year when the offence compiled 5,486 total yards, well off the team record of 7,665 in 1996. It was football's equivalent of watching trench warfare. Lots of noise; not much movement. "That game against Montreal when we didn't even get past midfield was embarrassing," St. John said. "We're going to be better ... we'll run more and offensive linemen love that. When you're pass blocking you're the one getting hit. When you're running the ball you have more control.

"It's like what would you rather be? The bug or the windshield."

Last year, they were bugs, blamed for the meagre season total of 280 first downs. "It was a little unfair ... but when you're an offensive lineman you accept that when things go bad you're first to get blamed.''

St. John would hate to face a repeat of last year.

"It was disappointing. We left our defence on the field far too long. I wish, with the backs we had (John Avery and Ricky Williams) that we'd run the ball more."

There now is potential for an improved ground game. Robertson's blocking helped make Joffrey Reynolds the CFL's leading rusher with 1,609 yards, and White is a between-the-tackles rusher with superior blocking skill.

"I like to stay behind the linemen," White said.

"When you go outside you can get stuck on an island ... and those guys just lov-v-v-ve to hit on a lonely running back."

Avery is more of a break-away threat. Either way, the team's second-leading scorer (after Arland Bruce's 11 touchdowns) cannot be a defensive player again -- as it was last year when cornerback Byron Parker had four TDs.

"We have to be a more diverse offence to keep the defence off balance," St. John said of a Toronto offence that was a mystery to nobody except its fans.

"We need to be more consistent. We had too many games where the defence kept us in the game and then, at the end, we had to try to pull something out of the hat."

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ALL-TIME ARGOS NOMINEES

Quarterback (one to be selected)

Damon Allen, Matt Dunigan, Doug Flutie, Condredge Holloway, Tobin Rote.

Running Back (two to be selected)

Michael (Pinball) Clemons, Ulysses Curtis, Robert Drummond, Gill Fenerty, Chester (Cookie) Gilchrist, Joe Krol, Cedric Minter, Dick Shatto

Bill Symons, Ted Toogood

Slotback/Tight End (two to be selected)

Jeff Boyd, Arland Bruce III, Mike Eben, Derrell (Mookie) Mitchell, Peter Muller, Paul Pearson, Al Pfeifer, Mel Profit, Darrell K. Smith, Rod Smylie

Wide Receiver (two to be selected)

Eric Allen, Royal Copeland, Terry Greer, Raghib (Rocket) Ismail, Dave Mann, Paul Masotti, Tony Miles, Bobby Taylor, Emanuel Tolbert

Jack Wedley

Centre (one to be selected)

Ian Beckstead, Paul Desjardins, Chad Folk, Mike Kiselak, Norm Stoneburgh

Guard (two to be selected)

Les Ascott, Freddy Black, Charlie Bray, Dan Ferrone, Noah Jackson, Don (Shanty) McKenzie, Frankie Morris, Jude St. John, Pierre Vercheval, Bill Zock

Offensive Tackle (two to be selected)

Bill Albright, Pete Bennett, Bill Frank, John Kerns, Steve Levantis, Danny Nykoluk, Kelvin Pruenster, Chris Schultz, Bill Shipp, Willie Williams

Defensive End (two to be selected)

Jonathan Brown, Mike Campbell, Jim Corrigall, Eric England, Dick Fouts, Reggie Givens, Ed Harrington, Rick Mohr, James (Quick) Parker, Bruce Smith

Defensive Tackle (two to be selected)

Jearld Baylis, Bruce Clark, Harold Hallman, Rodney Harding, Granville Liggins, Demetrious Maxie, Bill Shipp, Jim Stillwagon, Mike Wadsworth, Rob Waldrop

Outside Linebacker (two to be selected)

Ken Benson, Antonious Bonner, Ron Brewer, Kevin Eiben, Michael Fletcher, Byron Karrys, Bobby Kuntz, Gene Mack, Don Moen, Alex Ponton Jr.

Middle Linebacker (one to be selected)

Jim Andreotti, Sam Cvijanovich, Michael O'Shea, Willie Pless, Calvin Tiggle

Defensive Back (two to be selected)

Carl Brazley, Steve Dennis, Johnnie Harris, Clifford Ivory, Steve Karrys, Ed Learn, Larry Uteck, Don Wilson

Cornerback (two to be selected)

Ed Berry, Eric Harris, Reggie Pleasant, Dave Raimey, Jim Rountree, Adrion Smith, Donald Smith, Dick Thornton

Safety (one to be selected)

Wayne Allison, Paul Bennett, Marv Luster, Lester Smith, Orlondo Steinauer

Punter (one to be selected)

Zenon Andrusyshyn, Hank Ilesic, Joe Krol, Dave Mann, Noel Prefontaine

Kicker (one to be selected)

Zenon Andrusyshyn, Lance Chomyc, Noel Prefontaine, Mike Vanderjagt, Nick Volpe

Return Specialist (one to be selected)

Paul Bennett, Jan Carinci, Michael (Pinball) Clemons, Jimmy (The Jet) Cunningham, Bashir Levingston

Head Coach (one to be selected)

Leo Cahill, Frank Clair, Michael (Pinball) Clemons, Don Matthews, Ted Morris, Bob O'Billovich


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