Argo hopefuls give best, and maybe last, shots
The CFL dreams are about to die for dozens of Argonaut hopefuls after Friday night’s final pre-season game in Hamilton.
With a bloated training camp roster of more than 80 players, the Argonauts will be faced with some hard choices in getting down to a 46-man roster by the season opener in Toronto on June 25, also against the Tiger-Cats.
“I think it’s a make-or-break time for anybody who is playing,” head coach Marc Trestman said at the team’s camp at York University. “It’s an opportunity for them to assess themselves in a game environment. Can they play smart? Can they take care of the football? Do they tackle well? Do they handle success or adversity well within the course of the game, and how do they respond to the next play?”
Most of the attention will be at the key quarterback spot. Six QBs remain in camp and the Argos will likely cut one or two.
Veteran Ricky Ray, of course, is a lock, and won’t see any action against the Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field (7:30 p.m.).
Drew Willy, Jeff Mathews and Cody Fajardo saw limited time last week in Toronto’s 24-20 pre-season victory over the Montreal Alouettes at BMO Field. Two untested rookies, Dakota Prukop and McLeod Bethel-Thompson, will debut Friday.
“McLeod is more of a pocket passer and able to extend plays with his feet,” Trestman said of their contrasting styles. “Dakota’s mobility is one of his true strengths. He has the ability to make plays on the run.”
They both may approach the game differently too.
Bethel-Thompson talked Thursday about wanting to “light it up” when his chance arrives, while Prukop talked about the importance of “ball security” and not wanting to turn the ball over.
“When it comes to decision-making, I want to err on the side of caution,” Prukop said. “Turnovers are detrimental to an offence.”
Prukop, 23 and a product of the University of Oregon, is the youngest of the quarterbacks in camp.
Born in Newport, Calif, he is sixfoot-two and 205 pounds and has strong football bloodlines. His grandfather, Al Prukop, was a quarterback for the USC Trojans, his father coached football at USC, and an uncle played football at Cal State Fullerton.
Bethel-Thompson, 28, is built like a shot putter at six-foot-four, and 230. It’s perhaps no surprise that his grandfather, Wilbur (Moose) Thompson, was the 1948 Olympic shot put champion.
Bethel-Thompson played at Sacramento State but, like a lot of successful college quarterbacks, he couldn’t catch on with the NFL.
“I’ve been with six teams in the NFL,” Bethel-Thompson said. “I’ve bounced around. I was close, really close. Sometimes, it’s just right time, right place in that league.”
His career highlight up to this point was a solid pre-season performance for the Minnesota Vikings in 2014 against Houston. However, he couldn’t stick and arrived in the CFL last year in Winnipeg. The Bombers released him last October.
One player who won’t make his debut with Toronto is former Montreal receiver S.J. Green, who needs more time to recover from a serious knee injury.
Meanwhile, Canadian kicker Ronnie Pfeffer, who was signed this week, will get a chance to play in the second half of Friday’s game. He has a tough assignment trying to unseat the incumbent, Lirim Hajrullahu, and the team won’t carry two kickers during the regular season.