Going Big at the Receiver Position

TORONTO – Part of the rebuilding of the Argonaut offence from 2014 was to improve receiving options that Ricky Ray and Trevor Harris would be able to utilize, it sounds simple to go out and sign some new receivers but the Toronto Argonauts went outside the CFL comfort zone when it came to their new signees.

They went out and recruited a new receiving corps that would be based on size, some big, big size.

As always the Argos have Slotback Chad Owens, big on speed and we know that in the CFL you need to have a running back who can step out of the back field and receive short yardage passes just like Brandon Whitaker but in a league where the small guys were excelling in the receiving role it became apparent that the Argos of 2015 wanted to add some large passing targets to the offence.

General Manager Jim Barker brought in three receivers who looked like Tight-ends in terms of sheer human size but these three are anything but your inside passing game options.

The Argos have brought in three first year CFL receivers:

Tori Gurley                         6’4 , 230 (NCAA) South Carolina

Vidal Hazelton                  6’3 , 212 (NCAA) Cincinnati

Kevin Elliot                         6’3 , 213 (NCAA) Florida A &M

Now if you know the CFL the biggest and strongest and maybe last pure Tight-end was Ray Elgard who was a hulk at 6’3 in height and 220 pounds.  He was the epitome of a big guy who could post up in a zone and catch a pass with a defender on his back.  Looking at the height and weight of the newest Argos you are amazed to see that  they are just as big as one of the best possession receivers the CFL has ever seen.

That’s what makes this year’s new Argos receivers so much fun to watch.  If you have a chance to patrol the Argos sidelines at practices you also ending up doing a double take on player numbers when you realize the new additions look more like basketball players than they do football players.  Height was on the shopping list during the off-season and in the one-on-one drills you see major leaps from the receivers to snag passes.

All three players could rival the great Ray Elgard in sheer size but the interesting aspect for all three is they aren’t playing Elgard’s position of Tight-end.  All three are listed and PLAY as receivers.  This is a big change in philosophy for CFL teams who love to have the shifty speed guy hanging in the zone , players like Geroy Simon , Milt Stegall, Darren Flutie and Ben Cahoon have dominated the three down game and they were big guys but they never came close to the height that the Argos have brought in.  Even the record held in the CFL for most yards receiving in a season belongs to Allen Pitts who is 6’4 but played just below 200 pounds.

Toronto Argonauts wide receiver Tori Gurley (#81) runs the ball during first half CFL action in Regina on Sunday, July 5, 2015.  (CFL PHOTO - Derek Mortensen)

Toronto Argonauts wide receiver Tori Gurley (#81) runs the ball during first half CFL action in Regina on Sunday, July 5, 2015. (CFL PHOTO – Derek Mortensen)

In Gurley the Argos have seen his ability to shield the defender from the ball on most of his routes while still having the ability to create safe passing targets downfield for Trevor Harris.

For Hazelton coming out of the NCAA he made the scouts take notice on his ability to adjust his big frame and use his body control to make catches.  This is not an easy feat for receivers who are big guys.

Elliot’s game is built on coming back to the line of scrimmage when his quarterback needs help.

If you could use one scouting report for all three receivers you could rubber stamp all three with the following :

“Can make a catch with a defender hanging on to him”

“An easy target for a QB to find at all times”

“ Hard to bring down one on one”

The most impressive statement that Head Coach Scott Milanovich and Offensive Coordinator Marcus Brady could make this year is that they have taken three CFL rookies and with what has always been a short and challenging CFL training camp and turned them into three wideouts who can run CFL routes and that can take some time when you have players that have never heard of a “Waggle” before.

It’s a big advantage to be a big player on the field but utilizing that size and staying disciplined to running your pass routes in a league where many NCAA stars have failed the Three Trees have made it look easy on a team with a perfect 2-0 record.

Written by Peter T. Kourtis

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