By Andrea Civichino
Coach Scott Milanovich is ready to pen a new chapter in the Toronto Argonauts’ play book.
“There was so much change (in 2012), new players and new coaches,” Milanovich said. “It was my first time as head coach and we learned so much throughout the season, and having said that, I’m very anxious to turn the page. 2012 is over and I’m anxious to start the process and the journey that starts with our team.”
Milanovich was joined by executive chairman and CEO Chris Rudge and general manager Jim Barker in a CFL conference call on Wednesday afternoon to highlight the team’s successes in 2012 and preview the upcoming football season. While the Toronto Argonauts are riding high from last season’s Grey Cup win – ticket sales, merchandise sales, and social media numbers have all increased – the 2013 season brings a new set of challenges along with exciting opportunities.
“I look at it as it’s another year and it’s another opportunity to win a Grey Cup,” he said. “All of this talk about last year makes me uncomfortable because I know it’s (this year) an entirely new challenge. I think the pulse of our team as of right now is understanding the challenge that’s in front of them.”
Helping Milanovich plough through the Double Blue’s challenges are new additions – defensive line coach Ed Philion, and defensive backs coach Eddie Brown – to his coaching staff.
On the other side of the operations, Jim Barker is very excited the direction the team is taking, and the acquisition of more Canadian talent, including recently-signed Cleyon Laing. He also advised that contract negotiations with Milton-native Matt Sewell haven’t begun and that finalizing contracts with the other draft picks are “close.”
“We want to find the best Canadians and work them into our ratios,” Barker added. “Rookies are rookies and you don’t expect anything out of them. You just hope they grow. How fast they grow is determined on how quickly they’ll play.”
Another area of focus is molding a backup player for quarterback Ricky Ray. Last year’s season was off to a slow start after Ray was forced to watch from the sidelines with an injured knee. QBs Zack Collaros and Trevor Harris will be competing for the backup spot, along with former Winnipeg Blue Bombers Alex Brink.
“We should be starting at a higher level this year than we were last year and it wasn’t just Ricky,” Milanovich said. “A lot of it was our coaching staff. Ricky’s comfort level this year will be higher so that should make the whole product look a little better.”