Ishola takes to the field with Argos

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

The Argos returned from their bye week Tuesday, reconvened on the field under a backdrop that had the feel of the opening day of training camp.

There were no team periods, no skeleton teams, no sense in getting ready for an opponent when finding ones legs loomed larger.

New faces were sprinkled among the familiar figures, injured players running around and no apparent casualties of the oppressive heat.

One of the most promising sights was the presence of Ben Ishola, a speed rush end who badly damaged his wrist in the second half of the Argos' first pre-season game.

Ishola was considered a key cog on defence, a quick pass rusher who was so impressive that the Argos penciled him in as their starter.

Not big, but strong enough to hold his own against an offensive lineman, Ishola has proven to be so indispensable that no suitable end was brought in to fill for his absence.

What the Argos did was adjust their scheme to fit their personnel, which in this case meant lining up with four defensive linemen who are more than adept at pushing the pocket and executing their gap responsibilities.

What they lack is speed from the edge, that ability to come off the edge with an explosive step that forces a tackle to move in space, which often results in the tackle losing his balance.

The presence of a pure speed end can't be overstated in three-down football where undersized players often line up in that position.

Cameron Wake wreaked havoc for B.C. before he took his skills to the NFL. John Chick left Saskatchewan this off-season. In Montreal, the Als have used Anwar Stewart, who isn't as quick as he once was, and John Bowman to line up at defensive end and asked to either get after a quarterback or use their speed to pursue a ball carrier.

Ishola had all the attributes until his mishap against Hamilton.

"It feels exciting to be back," Ishola said on Tuesday. "I feel good, but I'll see how I really feel when we get into our team periods. Only then will I be able to see what kind of game shape I'm in and get a better feel on all the intricacies of the position."

Maybe Ishola blows the Argos away in practice, forcing their hands to activate him.

A more realistic scenario involves Ishola working his way back into game shape in a practice setting, displaying the speed that caught the eye of coaches in camp and being a presence that merits a spot on the active roster.

"You just have to take each step one at a time," Ishola said.

The Berlin-born Ishola made his way to Toronto last season by Bart Andrus, who knew of Ishola's abilities during their days in NFL Europe.

Ishola played in both pre-season games under Andrus, appeared in one regular season game but then got cut.

He hung around Toronto and began to work on getting his body more CFL ready.

"It's a different game," said Ishola, who attended the University of Indiana and who made brief stops in the NFL. "In this game when you line up on the tackle and you look at the sideline, you wonder where the sideline is because you can barely see it."

When asked by head coach Jim Barker to attend this year's camp, Ishola believes he dropped about 10 pounds from the previous season when he reported for his second go-round.

"I had a good camp, felt really good and then the unfortunate situation happened," Ishola added. "It was tough because I felt really prepared for the season and then adversity gets thrown at you.

"What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger."

Ishola, who believes he weighs between 245-250 pounds, knows he can't simulate playing shape, but he's feeling good and he's itching to make an impression.

"Ben's strength is that he's very explosive off the edge," Barker said.

He'll now wait to see how quickly Ishola can return to the form that earned him a starting spot.


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