June 8, 2012
Third year's a charm for WattArgos looking for a breakout season from Watt but consistency is more key
By BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Spencer Watt is a lot like the roadways and pathways that lead to the Argonauts’ training grounds: A work in progress.
When the Argonauts drafted him in 2010 out of Simon Fraser, head coach Jim Barker preached that patience would be needed. Now, two seasons later, new head coach Scott Milanovich is picking up the same refrain.
Watt had 29 catches for 345 yards last year. There was one touchdown. As might be expected from a young receiver, he was consistently inconsistent. The presence of Jeremaine Copeland was supposed to be a help, but the growth has been painfully slow.
It hasn’t helped that those around him were struggling mightily themselves and that if he was inconsistent, so too were the guys trying to throw the ball. In fact, that was often more than half the problem during two seasons in which he has three touchdowns and 43 receptions.
This year should be different.
Watt is no longer the Argos’ only true deep threat, with Jason Barnes joining the lineup. Defences no longer will be able to key entirely on Watt, which just might open things up a little bit for the youngster. So, the Argos are loath to give up on the lanky product out of Simon Fraser. Because Watt is a big target. Because Watt still is really, really young. Because they still believe there is gold at the end of the rainbows that new quarterback Ricky Ray will be tossing his way.
Watt is just 23.
That, is reason enough for Milanovich also to hang the “patience please” sign on his wideout. When it is suggested that Watt — three years into his pro career — needs to have a watershed breakout season, Milanovich offers a word of caution.
“I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on him. He’s still a young guy and well be paitent with him. He’s learning.”
Milanovich is still trying to sort out a receiving corps that includes Maurice Mann, Chad Owens, Barnes, Watt, Mike Bradwell and slotback Andre Durie, who watched Friday’s practice in shorts after “tweaking” an unspecified injury that club officials indicated wasn’t serious.
That Watt is Canadian helps him because of the import ratio rules. But when it comes to developing a young receiver the club also is believed to be thinking highly of Quincy Hurst, drafted out of Manitoba. Not to mention, there is competition from a half-dozen others, including Patrick, Jalil Carter and Samie Parker.
So, Watt isn’t taking anything for granted. Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out how you’re doing but, he said, “training camp weeds out the guys who can’t cut it.”
So far, so good. And, it doesn’t hurt when the guy throwing the ball is Ray, who dropped a pass into the seam behind the linebackers and in front a defensive back with a precision that got a discernable “Ohhhhh!” from the couple dozen spectators.
That just didn’t happen last year. Ever.
Watt said having Barnes, as well as Mann — who came over late last season from the Ticats — on the roster has already made a huge difference. “It’s been very helpful to me. We needed some more veteran presences like Mo and Jason (Barnes) is going to be a big addition. Just watching someone like (Barnes) has already been a big help. I’ve tried to watch some of their moves and put it into my tool box.”
Things like footwork. Technique. They critique each other in nightly meetings. Watt says he’s finally “getting it” when it comes to route running.
“Coaches can tell players things but,” Milanovich said, “sometimes it has more effect when guys hear it from their peers.”
And, Watt has been hearing it. Loud. And often. The guys lining up against him in this Argos camp has been noisy, boistrous and aggressive (although actual hitting has been limited in the interests of self-preservation). “It’s put on the hard-hats time,” Watt said with a laugh after another practice Friday during which the defensive backs — particularly Ahmad Carroll — were having a rollicking, and loud, good time.
“You can hear them all over the field. I like it. The offence can’t make much noise once the play is called but I think when you hear (the defensive) guys talking and yelling that it creates energy,” Watt said. “It’s not personal. It’s one of those one on one battles that I enjoy. And, as an offensive player I kind of like it when you get a DB in your ear because it makes you want to shut them up.”
JOHNSON YOUNG AT HEART
Jeff Johnson is 35.
He is in his 13th CFL training camp.
And, there he was lining up in the goal-line offence Friday, angled to the sideline, and Ricky Ray’s pass nestled into his waiting palms. A decade into his Argonauts’ career as fullback, running back, special team player and — for all anyone knows, the guy who turns out the dressing room lights when everyone else has gone home — Johnson is lookin’ good.
“And I feel like it, too,” Johnson said with a laugh.
“I take care of myself a lot better. To start,” he joked, “I don’t drink as much. I’ve got three kids now so you can’t goof around as much.”
Johnson works out. A lot. But he’s always done that. The longevity, he believes, comes from what happens after the workouts.
“I take care of my body. Now I work out. The difference is I’ve learned to appreciate and watch what is necessary to get the best benefit from that workout,” he said.
In other words, fewer stops on the way home from those workouts for a triple scoop, or an extra helping of the double chocolate fudge cake after dinner.
“Veggies. And lean meats,” he said. “The only thing is I’m not a disciplined shopper.”
Fortunately his wife, Kelly, is arbiter of the shopping list. And, just like in football, there’s no arguing with the food referee.
Grins Johnson: “It takes my wife 20 minutes to do the shopping. I go in and it takes me an hour ... I get sidetracked by too many sweets.”