TORONTO - Claude Wroten heard the message loud and clear.
A couple of weeks ago after a particularly ineffective game in B.C., Wroten was on the receiving end of a Jim Barker pep talk, only this kind of pep talk wasn’t so much an “I know you can do better” as it was a “You better do better or you’re gone” talk.
“He wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t responded,” Barker said on Wednesday. “He was on a very short leash at that point. I know what he can do and what he was doing was as good as some other players in this league, but not what he can do. I won’t have a guy who doesn’t work to reach his maximum potential here. It simply kills your team.”
Wroten is a supremely gifted individual, blessed with a combination of size, speed, and strength that most offensive line coaches take one look at and immediately start considering how they will double-team this defender.
And that was the plan when the Argos brought him into the March camp in Florida. With Wroten and Kevin Huntley on the interior of their front four, opposing offences wouldn’t be able to double team both which should have freed up one or the other for plenty of sacks.
Only that didn’t happen.
Barker wasn’t happy with his front four and said so but he had a special heart-to-heart with Wroten.
“Claude was an individual case,” Barker said. “He needed to pick his game up. Sometimes players come up here and think they are entitled to play in this league. It doesn’t work that way. He has picked his game up. He has become a dominant force in there and that’s helped Kevin Huntley get single blocked. That’s been our plan from the beginning.”
Sorting out Wroten, or at the very least getting his attention has already paid big dividends for the line as a whole.
The B.C. game almost three weeks ago was the one that got Barker’s blood boiling. Between them the front four accounted for 0 sacks and four tackles in total.
In the two games since then the front four has a two-sack, seven-tackle game and a four-sack, 13-tackle game.
Getting all four on the same page was the key.
“If one guy is doing his own thing you are done,” Barker said speaking of Wroten. “You have no chance because the other guys don’t trust he’s going to be where he is supposed to be so none of your stunts work so he’s understanding things better now.”
Wroten admits being called out was something he needed.
“I wasn’t playing up to my expectations,” Wroten said. “He just told me ‘Claude you must play better because you are a talented player and for you to settle for average play is B.S., basically, so step it up and do what we brought you in here to do.’”
Wroten has done that and Toronto’s front four is the concern the Argos coaching staff thought it would be all along.
“If one guy is off it breaks down a defence and that’s what was happening,” Wroten said. “Now we’re together and the sacks are coming.”
DUST-UPS AT PRACTICE
Taylor Scott might not be making a name for himself on game day yet, but he’s making his presence known in practice.
Jonathan St-Pierre, the offensive lineman who will see his second game-day duty of the season on Sunday has been a willing practice combatant with the aforementioned Scott.
For the second day in a row, the two went at it and had to be separated by teammates with Scott looking a little worse for wear after the tilt.
Scott, a graduate of Central Arkansas has only been here since being placed on practice roster Sept 11.
Head coach Jim Barker, while obviously concerned with only six healthy offensive lineman in camp, says these little dust-ups are just a sign of a good practice.
“They are having a good time out there and they compete,” Barker said. “If they get after it a little bit that’s OK, but I don’t want them to get in the habit of pulling guys’ facemasks or going back after him, but if that’s what they’re doing, that’s what they’re doing.”
ANSWERING THE BELL
After giving his arm a rest for the day while Dalton Bell re-acquainted himself with the offensive starters on Tuesday, starting quarterback Steven Jyles was back at the helm of the first team Wednesday.
“It was great for Dalton,” head coach Jim Barker said. “He needs to develop some confidence in his teammates again and I think he did that. That was important to practise the way he practised. The ball was being thrown on time. It was being thrown where it was supposed to be.”
Slotback Andre Durie sat out practice for a second consecutive day with a pulled muscle in his hip flexor area. If Durie can’t go look for Sammy Tranks to make his second start of the year.
Tranks has great speed and scored a big touchdown in his one start this year.
Linebacker Jordan Younger took part in Wednesday’s practice despite an injured shoulder. Barker will leave it up to the veteran linebacker whether he plays or not.
“He looked better today, but he’s a veteran guy,” Barker said. “It will be his call as to whether he can go. I worry about his shoulder but he’ll know and if he says he’s good to go then he’ll be good to go.”