September 20, 2012
Robert McCune wary of any Alouettes back
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Robert McCune expects no psychological or emotional change in the wake of a potentially impactful roster change in Montreal.
When Brandon Whitaker hurt his right knee in Sunday’s win over Saskatchewan, the landscape in the CFL’s East suddenly had a decided Double Blue look.
As Whitaker awaits surgery, rookie Victor Anderson will now be asked to fill Whitaker’s shoes, which is no small feat given how much Whitaker meant to the Als.
Not only did Whitaker lead all CFL rushers last season, but he also served as an important check-down receiver for Anthony Calvillo and often picked up blitzing linebackers.
When Anderson filled in for Whitaker earlier this season, he ran for 102 yards on 18 carriers in helping the Als defeat the host Eskimos.
“He’s a good running back,’’ said McCune of Anderson. “I watched him against Edmonton and he’s a shifty running back. I saw guys trying to tackle him, but he kept his balance. He made that football team for a reason. Just because Whitaker is down, we can’t say we’ve got this game.
“It’s unfortunate what happened to Whitaker. I’m sorry about his knee. We can’t look past this football team. We have to prepare like we normally do and go out and play our game.”
Coach Scott Milanovich spent enough time in Montreal to understand the depth of talent the Als organization surrounds itself with.
When one guy goes down, another steps in without the team missing a beat, no matter his profile or resume.
“They always have a great stable of backs,’’ said Milanovich. “I don’t think there’s any tendency (from his team) to relax.”
Given the amount of pressure the Argos like to bring, Calvillo is in for a long afternoon if blitz pickups aren’t executed.
“This is one of those ugly realities,” Calvillo told reporters in Montreal. “This is devastating. You never want to see anyone end their season with a knee issue. Brandon Whitaker was a huge part of our offence. But I can’t worry about who’s back there. I have to make my reads and get the ball to the open guy.”
On Wednesday, the Als announced that non-import running backs Emmanuel Marc and Chris Jennings were added to the team’s practice roster.
BLACK THRIVES ON SLOWER MOTION
As Matt Black’s role expands on defence for the Argonauts, as he gets more reps in key stretches, the Northern Collegiate grad is feeling much more comfortable in his surroundings.
When the year began, Black was resigned to playing the corner position as a backup.
Then came the move to free safety and the added responsibilities.
“Everything is slowing down,’’ said Black, who is also a key member on Toronto’s special teams. “My versatility is suited to this defence and it feels good to know that my team can rely on me.”
Nickel packages are normally the time when Black enters the game, either replacing a linebacker or a down lineman in obvious passing situations.
In B.C. last Saturday, he scooped up a Kevin Huntley fumble for a touchdown.
For Black, it was his second-career score, his first arriving last year in Edmonton when he returned a punt for a touchdown.
A year ago, he gave the ball to his mom.
On Saturday, his gift was earmarked for his wife.
“It was her birthday,’’ smiled Black.
KICKER FULL OF SURPRISES
At this rate, Swayze Waters is going to throw for a touchdown from a punt formation or be used as a receiving threat off a fake field goal.
For a guy who is built like a water boy, Waters is playing football in a manner that is reminiscent of his predecessor, Noel Prefontaine, who aggravated a problematic hip during a mid-July loss to the Ticats in Hamilton.
Waters has thrown his body at returners, got drilled on a missed field goal attempt and, last Saturday night in B.C., he ran for a first down on a punting formation, giving his team an extra set of downs the Argos would turn into a touchdown.
“I wouldn’t say it was a great play,’’ said Waters. “But I will say the timing was great.”
During the flow of the game, special teams co-ordinator Mike O’Shea, as he always does, paid close attention to how the Lions would drop off into their blocking lanes.
Waters noticed how B.C. would treat the line of scrimmage on punting formations and decided to take off in the fourth quarter for a run that netted the visitors 15 yards.
“It wasn’t a green light situation,’’ said Waters, who hasn’t attempted a run on a fake punt since his college days.
When the Argos beat the host Als in late July, it was Waters’ leg that proved the difference.
“It’s a great atmosphere,’’ said Waters of playing at McGill Stadium. “The fans are right on top of you.”
OWNING UP TO IT
Scott Milanovich said no word was minced, no person singled out and there was no reason to read too much into a meeting recently aimed at clearing the air.
“We talked about it like men do,’’ said the rookie head coach. “If you have something so say, let’s talk about it because this has to get fixed.
“Ultimately, what came out of it was they needed to step forward and take ownership for what was happening. Coaches are all for that when players take ownership.”
At the root of their gathering was the inordinate amount of penalties the Argos have taken.
The tone of this season-long issue was set in the first game, a road loss to the Eskimos when a Spencer Watt touchdown pass was called back on a holding call.
In last week’s loss in B.C., Watt had another apparent major negated when a flag was thrown.
The Argos can talk all they want, put in place some token fine system, which is peanuts given the money these players make, or have guys run sprints or do push ups. But until they put it into action, it means nothing.