All eyes on Argos' tackle Claude Wroten

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:39 PM ET

We think we know who you'll be watching Friday night when the Argos open the 2011 season in Calgary.

For the vast majority of you it will be eyes locked on Cleo Lemon. The Argos starting quarterback of a year ago is back and with a year under his belt and a better grasp of the Canadian game, not to mention a speedier physique, he's expected to be much better.

Lemon will be scrutinized like few others Friday and throughout the regular season.

But when Lemon catches a breather and the Argos defence takes the field, we have another area for you to zero in on because this may be the biggest single addition the team will make this year.

Claude Wroten, all 6-foot-3, 298 pounds of him, will line up beside Kevin Huntley on the interior of the Argos defensive line and if you can manage to track him through all the bodies and bulk, he's well worth watching.

In simple terms Wroten knocked the Argos coaching staff's socks off at the mini camp in Florida this spring.

He's a former NFLer who played two years and got bounced because he liked the green stuff a little too much and we're not referring to the green stuff he puts in the bank.

Wroten's numbers in his two NFL season were nothing to sneeze at and in a league which has helped produce creeps like Ben Roethlisberger and Pac Man Jones and continues to employ them, Wroten's missteps are ridiculously minor.

But it says here that the NFL's loss is the Argos' gain.

Wroten is not yet fully up to speed, but the quickness he possesses for such a big man just doesn't come along often.

He's only 27. He arrived in training camp late -- the fact that the Argos were willing to wait for him is one more indication of how high this coaching staff is on him -- but in terrific shape according to both head coach Jim Barker and defensive line coach George Dyer.

From what the coaching staff saw of Wroten during the camp in Florida he can be a game changer.

Offences are now dealing with interchangeable pieces in the middle of the Argos defensive line. Both Huntley and Wroten can play nose tackle or three technique which means the Argos will be better able to disguise their intentions.

Teams now have to pick their poison when it comes to double teaming an Argo as well. Double Wroten and Huntley likely has single coverage. Double Huntley and Wroten's path to the quarterback is easier. Double both and Ron Flemons or Rickey Foley are looking at smaller backs coming out to block them.

"That's what we're hoping for," Dyer said. "We have to see it, we don't know yet."

It is Wroten's combination of speed and quickness that have the Argos coaching staff and his fellow D-linemen giddy with anticipation at seeing what Wroten can do over the course of a whole season.

"He's quicker than all outdoors," is how Huntley describes Wroten's skill set. "He's very explosive. He's powerful. He can do anything you ask him whether he plays nose or three (technique). I think that is what makes him so valuable to us, that he can do both."

Barker has some advice for opposing offensive coordinators.

"If teams try to single block him it's going to be very difficult for them to run the ball," Barker said.

Dyer though refuses to get ahead of himself. He knows Wroten is still very new to the league and while he's a quick study and an eager pupil, he cautions there are still steps to be made.

"It will take a little while yet," Dyer cautioned. "He's a bright guy so he picks stuff up but he had to learn so much so quickly it can overwhelm you sometimes but he's doing a heck of a job. He'll be better in a couple of weeks."

Dyer said he saw flashes of what Wroten can eventually become in this league in the Winnipeg pre-season game.

"You could see some things. Certainly some positives and certainly some places we need to go," he said. "He has all the makings to be a successful player. All we need to do is keep him on track where he's doing the things he needs to do."

And as for picking him out of that mass of humankind on Friday night, Dyer doesn't expect that will be that difficult.

"If you have to look for him, we have the wrong guy," Dyer said. "He should stand out. That goes for all of our guys. If you're watching and you say 'My gosh, what's that?,' then we're doing what we are supposed to be doing."

Dyer doesn't want to put too much pressure on his newest lineman, but you get the distinct impression he expects a lot of "My gosh" moments from Wroten.


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