June 10, 2012
Argos QB inspires awe
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Call it a presence, a poise in the pocket, an ability to deliver the football in rhythm and on time.Whatever description one is apt to use, it can apply to Ricky Ray.
When the lights come on and football’s proverbial bullets begin to fly, only then will Ray be judged, ultimately on the number of wins the Argo are able to produce.
But on Saturday, when the Argos had to retreat to Burlington, an area no less associated with the hated Ticats, it would become Ray day, a day that left many veterans in awe.
Mind you, it was only a mock game simulation with some talented players sitting out to rest nagging injuries, but overall it was a day that would showcase Ray’s passing skills.
“He was throwing dimes out there,’’ praised veteran Jordan Younger, who is expected to line up as Toronto’s starting free safety this season. “He was putting it right on the money.
“He looked like he was playing in this offence for a long time. It’s hard to believe he’s been running this offence for a week and a half. He looks like a natural.”
The goal of this year’s Argos team, much like it is all around the CFL, is to play in the Grey Cup.
With so much invested into this season, heads will roll if the Argos aren’t at least competitive and don’t at least make a push for the post-season.
In an eight-team league where only two teams fail to qualify for the playoffs, anything less than a berth in the post-season will result in wholesale changes.
In Argoland, the urgency to win is magnified given the backdrop of the 100th Grey Cup, which will be played in Toronto. And Ray.
When he looks safeties off and throws that patented fade route to the fall side of the field, it’s a thing of beauty.
One of Ray’s many touchdown passes on Saturday featured running back Cory Boyd on a wheel route, football talk for a guy lining up in the backfield who goes in motion in a scheme designed to take advantage of a one-on-one matchup.
Boyd would make the catch, but it was Ray’s arching heave that landed softly into his hands that caught everyone’s attention.
“At first glance, it looked like he was really sharp,’’ head coach Scott Milanovich said of Ray.
“We’ll have to look at the film to see if his timing was right. There were a couple of sacks that weren’t called and it may not be as good as it looked.
“But if felt pretty good having him out there.”
Not since the days of Damon Allen have the Argos fielded a proven quarterback.
As good as Allen was, saving his best when games were on the line or on the game’s biggest stages, he never threw the football quite like Ray.
Ray has nowhere near Allen’s athletic ability, but he makes no secret that his preference is to make the right read and deliver the football in the pocket.
In the Milanovich offence, Ray won’t be asked to make plays out of the pocket, though he has enough foot speed to move the chains when necessary.
“It’s like a whole new world,’’ veteran Canadian running back Jeff Johnson said of Ray. “I’ve never experienced any guy like that.
“He communicates, he’s a true student of the game and his demeanor is great.”
Everything, naturally, must be taken in context and kept in perspective.
At the same time, had Ray been passive in the pocket and not decisive, had he overthrown receivers or thrown to the wrong the place, the alarm bells would be going off.
Saturday marked a good start.
When next Wednesday’s pre-season opener gets played in Hamilton, more will be gleaned from Ray, who looms as the most important player in a year of great importance for football in Toronto.
BOYD BRACES FOR A BUSY SEASON
It took all of one series for all to see what awaits Cory Boyd.
Next to Ricky Ray, Boyd looms as one of the Argos’ most dynamic pieces, a multi-purpose back who is expected to lead the team in touches.
How those touches will be distributed remains to be seen, but expect Boyd’s receiving skills to be showcased.
In Saturday’s mock game held at Burlington’s Nelson High School, Boyd and Ray hooked up on a perfectly executed wheel route, a play the Argos went away from during most of last season when Boyd was persevering through some nagging injuries.
This past off-season, Boyd remained in Toronto, where he served as a personal trainer, had occasion to spend some time with new Argos head coach Scott Milanovich and liked what Milanovich had to say.
“A lot is being expected and I’m looking forward to living up to those expectations and exceeding them,’’ Boyd said.
Boyd looks lighter on his feet and that explosiveness is obvious.
“Be a leader and make plays,’’ Boyd said of his role. “My body hasn’t felt better. In previous years, some little injuries were bugging me heading into camp.
“This year, my mind, body and spirit are great.”
PENALTIES PERTURB COACH
There was a lot to be encouraged that would emerge from Saturday’s mock game.
But every good sign was overshadowed by a penalty, an area rookie head coach Scott Milanovich simply has to address as the Argos move forward.
“Way too many penalties, which will get us if we continue to do that,’’ said Milanovich. “We have to work on getting more disciplined.”
The Argos will be back on the practice field on Sunday as preparations for the June 30 season opener in Edmonton continue.
Next Wednesday, the first pre-season gets played in Hamilton. But for many, Saturday’s simulation marked their first exposure to three-down football.
“It was a great teaching tool,’’ veteran Jordan Younger said of Saturday’s mock game. “For many, they got an idea of what a game will feel like, tempo, how the clock moves and little things like lining up onside.”
Ricky Ray’s passing stole the show, but receiver Dontrelle Inman clearly turned heads. With Jason Barnes, Maurice Mann and Andre Durie all nursing injuries and unavailable, the rookie Inman emerged as the go-to receiver.
On Friday night, Milanovich gave his offence a 110-play call sheet. The coach said about 40 plays were used on Saturday. “There weren’t too many busts,’’ he said.