Durie Argos' double-threat

Argonauts double-threat Andre Durie catches the ball during practice in Mississauga, Ont.,...

Argonauts double-threat Andre Durie catches the ball during practice in Mississauga, Ont., Wednesday. (MARK O'NEILL/QMI Agency)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:58 AM ET

TORONTO - Andre Durie’s first year in the hybrid back/receiver role was a moderate success.

Early indications are this year, with a season under his belt at it, the sky is the limit for Durie.

Argonauts head coach Jim Barker believes Durie has only begun to tap into his potential.

It’s not that Durie did a bad job last year coming out of the backfield and running routes. He was the Argos’ second leading receiver behind only veteran Jermaine Copeland. He had more all-purpose yards than anyone on the team other than Chad Owens and Cory Boyd.

But he accomplished all that while still trying to come to grips with what it takes to be a successful receiver.

Throughout his York University days Durie was the starting running back. In his first three years in the CFL, Durie was primarily a kick returner and backup running back. Coming into last season he had caught all of two passes in his first three years in the league.

Barker’s arrival changed all that. He went from one rushing attempt and two receptions in 2009 to 11 carries and 54 receptions last season.

“He has become a much more complete player,” Barker said Wednesday. “Last year was hard on him, having never been a receiver before. And it was hard on me sometimes watching him, but I look now at the product and that’s the whole thing with development. It takes time. I think he’s a complete player. I think he looks great running the ball and I think you can line him up at wide receiver. That means he’s making huge strides.”

Midway through yesterday’s second of two morning practice sessions Durie showed everyone how far his receiving skills and route running skills have come, breaking free on the first play of offence vs. defence drills for a 50-yard reception that would have gone the distance had it been a real game. It was the type of play that had Barker’s defensive coaches complimenting his offensive coaches for the play call and offensive players celebrating like they had just gone up 7-0 on the opening drive of the season.

For Durie it was just one more indication that all the work he put in last season and all the patience Barker and company showed as he learned the receiving game was worth it.

“Yeah, I’m starting to get more comfortable with it,” Durie said of primarily catching the ball for a living. “Learning how to sit in zones and read man and zone coverages. It’s starting to become that natural spot for me. I’m starting to really enjoy it.”

Barker saw the unique potential Durie’s athletic abilities provided for a non-import and spent the year convincing both himself and Durie that it could work.

Other players might have balked at being asked to switch positions, but Durie not only had the athletic ability to make it work, he had the proper attitude as well.

“He’s just the epitome of what you want in a football player,” Barker said. “Nobody works harder, nobody has a better attitude. When we came here we heard that maybe he didn’t learn ... (but) he knows every position you can throw him and he never makes a mental mistake. He’s unbelievable. If you have 42 Andre Durie’s you are going to win a lot of games.”

Durie says without the proper teachers he never would have progressed as fast as he did.

“Honestly coach Barker has the best guys to teach you and really break it down for you, especially for me coming from a novice level of understanding the receiver position to now learning it at a pro level within a year,” he said.

Taking things one step further, Durie even altered his off-season training to make sure he came in at the proper size for the role, something he didn’t do last year because he had no idea what Barker had planned for him.

“I’m a little smaller,” Durie said. “(In the past) I would come in at running back size, about 205 and then I would go down to the 195 area. This year I came in at 195 and I’ll probably settle in at 190 just because of the new position.

“You have to be ready for all the streak routes. It’s a lot more running at receiver. You have to be prepared for it. I feel a lot faster. I feel like I can run for days.”

And if Barker has his way, Durie will get that chance.

“We are using him more now,” Barker said. “We are using him in different ways. He is actually running regular routes now and not just running flat routes and things like that. Every time he got the ball in his hands (last season) he was trouble and that’s what we need. Guys who get the ball in their hands and make problems for the defence.

“Andre is a special talent and I think he is going to have a big year,” Barker said.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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