Argos get their ducks in a row

Scott Milanovich smiles after being announced as the new head coach of the CFL Toronto Argonauts...

Scott Milanovich smiles after being announced as the new head coach of the CFL Toronto Argonauts during a news conference in Toronto Dec. 1, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:02 PM ET

As the CFL’s off-season continues with some minor tweaks and major personnel moves, Scott Milanovich is beginning to see the end of the line.

For the first-year Argos head coach, the end of the line will arrive when training camp begins, a time when Milanovich will get a glimpse of what the final finished product will look like.

In the interim, Milanovich goes about his business of evaluation and preparation, the latest exercise involving the composition of his staff.

On Friday, Milanovich named Kez McCorvey as receivers coach, a guy Milanovich knows from their collegiate days when McCorvey was strutting his stuff at Florida State, Milanovich at Maryland.

In addition to McCorvey’s hiring, Milanovich also announced that Cory Stone will man the team’s defensive line as its position coach.

Stone has a history with Chris Jones, Toronto’s defensive co-ordinator and one of the biggest additions the Argos have made this off-season.

And not surprisingly, Jason Maas moves from receivers coach to quarterbacks coach, a move anyone could have seen once Jonathan Himebauch took advantage of a window that allowed him to join Wake Forest as an assistant.

For those keeping score, Milanovich will have seven assistants on his staff, including three holdovers from last season, Mike O’Shea (special teams), Orlondo Steinauer (defensive backs) and Steve McAdoo (offensive line).

The Argos are planning a barnstorming session this Sunday when full-time GM Jim Barker and his staff will gather with Milanovich and his staff in order to get a better feel for what they’ve got.

Until now, Barker and his bird dogs have been on the road, evaluating and scouting, while Milanovich has put together the final touches on his staff while keeping an eye on the players he’ll coach in this his rookie season.

“We’ll all be in the same building,’’ Milanovch said of the team’s gathering. “We’re all excited because up until now Jim and staff have been on the road looking for players, going through free agency.”

Everything from establishing a playbook, getting a handle on how training camp will be planned and the ongoing process of player acquisition and evaluation will intensify now that the calendar will soon flip to March.

“It’s just an exciting time because you begin to see which player fits into what piece in the puzzle,’’ enthused Milanovich.

Last year proved to be one of the most unpredictable years in the recent history of the CFL, a season where any team was capable of beating any opponent on any given week.

No longer were the Montreal Alouettes such a sure bet, which is something Milanovich discovered as head coach Marc Trestman’s right-hand man on offence.

The East, in particular, is shaping up as a wild ride this season, something Milanovich readily acknowledges.

“Just across the league there’s talent and parity,’’ he said. “You can’t look at any team and say that team doesn’t have a shot.

“The truth is any team can do it, which makes for an exciting season for fans, players and coaches. It’ll be one of those years where you’ll have to bring your A-game every week.”

For Milanovich, once the Xs and Os of football have been dispensed, his system put into place and the right players chosen to suit the system, it’ll be up to him to lead the Argos in what is shaping up as a huge season for the franchise.

Trestman’s voice carried a lot of weight in Montreal, a coaching intangible Milanovich must sell to his team.

TOP PROSPECTS HEAD TO TORONTO

There’ll be plenty of prodding and poking, trades proposed and in some cases seeds of a future deal sewn when the CFL gathers in Toronto next week.

For three days, the focus will be on football as the countdown for the league’s May draft officially begins.

The three-down huddle begins on Friday when the top prospects get tested in front of general managers and coaches.

In total, 59 players eligible for this year’s draft will undergo testing at U of T’s indoor facility, highlighted by Ben Heenan.

According to the CFL’s scouting bureau, Heenan is the top-ranked prospect, a 6-foot-4 offensive lineman from the University of Saskatchewan.

Quarterbacks include Billy Greene (UBC), Kyle Graves (Acadia) and Kyle Quinlan (McMaster). Quinlan was invited last year to Hamilton’s training camp.

Saskatchewan has the first overall pick followed by Edmonton, which acquired the slot as part of the deal that landed Ricky Ray in Toronto.

The Ticats will pick third overall, while the Argos make their first selection in the second round (10th overall).

NEW IN DOUBLE BLUE

(A look at the Argos’ key acquisitions this off-season)

* Ricky Ray: Toronto gets a bona fide signal caller, but at a price that has had a ripple effect at it relates to personnel decisions; no doubt Ray will deliver the football, but he’ll need time in the pocket and receivers to make plays.

* Jason Barnes: Team quickly pounced once Edmonton granted Barnes’ release; there’s familiarity with Ray and an opportunity for Barnes to emerge as Toronto’s go-to target; a playmaker at this position is essential.

* Marc Parenteau: In what would eventually turn out to be a swap of starting centres, Argos got Parenteau, while Saskatchewan nabbed Dominic Picard; there’s plenty of upside in Parenteau, but he’s only been a starter for one season.

* Jarious Jackson: He’s got two Grey Cups, plenty of experience, mainly as a backup, and comes to Toronto to re-energize his game; he should have the upper hand as Ray’s backup.

* Adam Tarfalis: Younger than Jackson, and nowhere near as experienced; provides much-needed depth at quarterback.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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