Argos vet adjusts to life at linebacker

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:00 AM ET

Jordan Younger has gone from playing on an island to being in the middle of a storm, going to a football place not many are capable of venturing, let alone surviving.

From cover corner to strong-side linebacker, in football’s parlance SAM, Younger is experiencing a new beginning, embracing a new challenge and coping with all the nuances that accompany such a dramatic move.

Imagine a wide receiver being told to move inside at slotback or tight end and you can begin to understand the many pitfalls that await.

When a receiver lines up at wideout, the only player he has to focus in on is the opposing defensive back.

When he moves inside, there are defensive ends who may slide to the outside to disrupt a route, a linebacker to deal with before the pass catcher enters the defensive secondary.

It’s no different for Younger, a veteran at the age of 32 who was asked by new Argos defensive backs coach Orlondo Steinauer to prepare for the sudden change.

“Just crazy,’’ began Younger.

“I’ve always been a corner at every level of football I’ve played and it’s definitely different.

“It’s still football, but it’s completely different. The reads are different, the way the game happens is different, the speed of the game and the reaction times are different. It’s definitely more physical.”

A split lower lip is a not-so-subtle reminder that Younger no longer plays the corner spot, a blow he suffered during the Argos’ 27-24 win over Calgary in Toronto’s home opener.

Defensive backs, especially those who play the corner position, are taught the importance of foot work, reading the quarterback, turning ones hips and making breaks on the ball.

Most cover corners aren’t exactly known for being physical and the truly elite become receivers when the football is in the air.

Moving inside is an entirely new beast, a move that required Younger to add pounds to avoid getting completely pounded when providing run support.

“This was something that wasn’t forced upon me,’’ said Younger, an accomplished corner back in the CFL who earned two league all-star honours at the position.

“I could have played corner for another team, but I wanted to stay here and when the opportunity was presented, I welcomed it.

“I had to get bigger because I didn’t want linemen to toss me around. I try to beat them with quickness, but my size now allows me to mix it up with inside receivers.”

Younger weighs in at 205 pounds, which isn’t exactly big but it’s good enough in three-down football where many teams use undersized linebackers in the pass-happy league.

Willie Pile carved a niche for himself as an Argonaut at linebacker, but this season was asked to line up in the secondary at free safety.

Younger helped the Argos win a Grey Cup in 2004 at corner, but is now learning as a linebacker.

“I’m having a lot of fun,’’ Younger added.

“I’m a football player and I wasn’t ready to stop playing. What this transition has done is provide me an opportunity to keep playing for a team I want to play.”

Argonauts fans are keenly aware of Michael Fletcher and the impact he had as undersized linebacker, a player who went from the secondary and into football’s box, seamlessly and effectively.

Younger isn’t quite at Fletcher’s level when it comes to stopping the run, but he’s shown a willingness to get his nose dirty.

“Fletch had a gift and a knack for playing the run,’’ Younger said.

“I don’t think I’m any less physical. There are times when my responsibility is to cover the inside receiver on my side and other times in run support.

“I’m a hybrid: A true linebacker and a cover guy.”

And a veteran who has now played 100 career games, his milestone moment reached when he lined up against the Stamps last Wednesday night.

“It’s such a blessing,’’ said Younger. “This game has taught me so much about myself, about people, about heart and what it takes. It’s taught me about courage.

“I don’t care what position I’m asked to play. If they put me at defensive end, I’ll try that.”

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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