Argos tried, but ...

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:03 AM ET

TORONTO - Given all that he’s done, all that’s been sacrificed and second-guessed, Jim Barker’s hands were pretty much tied heading into Thursday’s CFL draft.

When he tried to move up and get into the first round, the price that needed to be paid proved too steep. When he tried to move down to acquire additional pieces, no dance partner would emerge.

All in all, then, it was a day when the true meaning of the exercise won’t be known, probably not until next year at the earliest, but it was a day Barker felt was fruitful.

“I’m very happy with what we got,’’ said Barker after all his Argos picked had been made. “We’re investing in the future and we felt there was a lot of value in the future with the players we picked.”

Even if he did grab a top pick, there was no guarantee the pick would be able to start on this year’s Argos team.

With a proven quarterback in Ricky Ray, a workhorse running back in Cory Boyd, some receivers who will automatically be better in Ray’s presence, and an offensive line that’s deep, the Argos have the pieces.

What they need is time to build cohesion and reps to learn a system that is foreign for many.

On defence, Chris Jones’ attack style is your classic high risk/ high reward system that has the potential to be very good.

On special teams, there’s no better returner than Chad Owens and no better mastermind of schemes and tricks than co-ordinator Mike O’Shea.

Under this background, one begins to understand why Barker was prepared to look to the future, even though his future is no lock.

In Cleyon Laing, whom the Argos used with their first pick (ninth overall), Barker got a guy who probably would have been taken in next year’s first round.

“A tremendous nose tackle,’’ said Barker of Laing, who will go back to Iowa State next season.

Then came another future prospect in Herve Tonye-Tonye, a linebacker from Northern Colorado who first played his NCAA football at Alcorn State.

In total, the Argos chose six players. Half of those fall under the futures group, including Luke Willson, whom baseball fans will know as the Canuck signed by the Blue Jays. When he played for the national team, Wilson batted cleanup right after Brett Lawrie.

At Rice University, Willson started at tight end, but he can play slot and line up at fullback.

The non-futures picks were wide receiver Quincy Hurst (Manitoba), linebacker Aaron Crawford (St. Mary’s) and defensive back Shea Pierre (Windsor).

ARGOS SHEA IT'S SO

Shea Pierre wasn’t projected to be drafted in the first three or four rounds.

But If this Hamilton-born, Mississauga-raised kid makes it — and he’ll be given an opportunity — his path to the CFL will be one no one will soon forget.

Admittedly, Pierre had no clue how many players would be selected during Thursday’s draft. When he watched as the No. 40 slot approached and he had yet to see his name appear, he thought his chance was over, his shot at the CFL forced to wait until next year.

“I started playing a video game,’’ said Pierre. “I then glanced at my computer screen where I kept the draft tracker and I saw my name and the Argos name. Holy crap! Within minutes, my phone went off.”

The first call came from Argos defensive backs coach Orlondo Steinauer, who will serve as Pierre’s position coach later this month when rookies report.

Then came a call from Pierre’s mom, Rose, who was glad her son would be playing close to home.

The Argos don’t have much Canadian depth in the defensive backfield and Pierre might be that late-round pick who surprises people.

Part of his workout routine involves a morning gathering at the Hershey Centre with other CFL players, including Andre Durie. Pierre has been working out with the Argos slotback, being forced to cover him.On Friday, when Pierre resumes his regimen, he can introduce himself as Durie’s newest teammate.

“He’s such a talent and he’s so hard to cover,’’ said Pierre. “What a thrill it’s going to be (Friday).”


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