Watt a find for Argos

Spencer Watt catches the ball during Argos practice at U of T Mississauga August 1st, 2011. (DAVE...

Spencer Watt catches the ball during Argos practice at U of T Mississauga August 1st, 2011. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:13 PM ET

A lot of bad things have happened to the Toronto Argonauts this year.

Spencer Watt has not been one of them.

True, he’s no Ochocinco. He won’t be mistaken for Arland Bruce. He’s not signing any balls in the end zone after touchdown catches.

But, then, maybe that’s not entirely a bad thing. Watt is not big on histrionics. Cynics might suggest the Argonauts wide receiver isn’t big on scoring touchdowns either.

But, give him time. “Spinny? He’s a great kid,” said Jeremaine Copeland, who has become mentor and football guidance counselor to the 22-year-old sophomore out of Simon Fraser University. “You don’t meet too many young, humble guys willing to learn. A lot of them think they know everything already and don’t take teaching so well. He wants to be the best he can be. He’s getting better with his routes, his waggles and making the play on the ball when it’s in the air. There’s a lot of things he’s asking questions about and that I’m trying to teach him.”

Watt is still growing into his 6-foot-3 frame at about 190 pounds. He’s also growing into football, having come from a background as a sprinter and triple jump star in university.

“Compared to some of the other guys in my draft class it’s a little disappointing,” Watt said, of 36 catches in almost two full seasons. On a lot of clubs he probably would be stuck on the practice roster. But the Argonauts have the worst pass offence in the league with nobody, outside of Copeland, as established pass-catchers. So Watt is learning on the job.

“Running routes isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s an art form,” said Watt, of trying to modify his sprinter mentality. “It’s different because I’m just used to going fast every play. I have to learn when to use my bursts. How to control my speed ... and how to run my routes better.”

Last year he started in the slot. But he was getting banged up so much that head coach Jim Barker moved him outside on the wide side of the field, where he now plays next to Copeland.

“He’s still a baby. We probably rushed him a bit (in his rookie year). When we put him inside, he wasn’t ready for that physically. He’s still growing into his body. He has to build that muscle strength that you need to take the beating week in and week out in professional football. I think he’s 500 times better than he was this time last year,” said Barker, “and at some point I believe he’ll be back in the slot, or he could move to the boundary side because he is very fast.”

Watt has intriguing leaping ability and few can stay with him over 60 yards in a straight line. The trick is to use that speed on the football field.

That’s where Copeland comes in. The veteran hasn’t produced the all-star stats this year to which he’s accustomed, but his mentorship of Watt may pay future dividends. It better because there hasn’t been much to celebrate in “The Now” for this team.

“Having a track background, one of the hardest things for him to learn was catching the ball high over his outside shoulder. He’s gotten a lot better,” said Copeland.

Watt has 23 catches for 275 yards this season. Modest, to be sure. His performances have been uneven. His only touchdown was a 30-yard catch against the Alouettes. Last year he had a breakout game with two TDs and 140 yards against the Als. “Montreal has shown me a lot of love,” he said, laughing. “They’re a man to man (defence). It’s less stress trying to read that kind of defence. I don’t have to try to find the holes. It’s just me versus the corner and let’s see what happens.”

It’s the rest of the league he’s had trouble with; not to mention a quarterback situation that has been in constant flux. So, the Argos in two seasons under Barker have failed to develop a passing game, consistently ranking last in the CFL. The 2011 Argonauts are averaging 13 fewer passing yards per game than Toronto did in 2009 under the famously-villified Bart Andrus.

Perhaps Watt may yet become the deep threat on a team desperate for one ever since Andrus traded away Bruce. Perhaps Watt provides hope on a team that has so little for which to hope.

“He’s like a gazelle, long strides, high knees and once he takes off he’ll make you backpedal real fast. He’s hard to cover, and that’s coming from Byron Parker, who is also fast,” said Copeland. “As far as his running style, he’s kind of like Kenyon Rambo but as far as his speed and the way he’s learning to run routes, he’s going to be unique.

“He’s getting stronger and his intimidation factor is high. The DBs are always getting into it with him because he’s not afraid to throw a block. That’s one thing a lot of receivers don’t like to do. He’s going to be one of a kind. I think this time next year he’s going to be tough to deal with.”

The Argonauts, with an offence that has scored just three touchdowns in its last four games, can only hope. And wait.

ALOUETTE TURKEY?

The Argonauts leave by train Saturday to spend Thanksgiving weekend in Montreal.

But for a guy who is likely to see his team carved up like Thanksgiving turkey by Alouettes’ quarterback Anthony Calvillo, Toronto head coach Jim Barker was sounding cordial.

“I’m happy for him,” said Barker, who once was Calvillo’s offensive co-ordinator in Montreal. “It’s a great challenge for us; a quarterback that’s setting records ... it’s exciting.”

Calvillo needs 258 yards to become pro football’s career passing leader, surpassing former Argonauts’ quarterback Damon Allen’s 72,381 yards.

Meantime, he wasn't above a little light-hearted trash talking. With a 1 o’clock game Monday, and asked if he was providing a turkey dinner for the team, Barker grinned, paused, then said: “I hadn’t thought about it. I don’t know. Alouette turkey?”

 

 


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