TORONTO – How can a CFL team get the most out of their roster when dealing with the CFL’s roster quota rules?
As the 2015 CFL season started, the Toronto Argonauts were sticking with their game plan of using one person to handle the kicking duties. In the case of the Double Blue it was an easy decision as the team had the strong leg of Swayze Waters. The 28 year-old from Jackson, Mississippi had started his college career as a kick-off specialist , then added the job of long-field goal kicker during his sophomore campaign and once he entered his junior and senior years he was handling all the kicking duties with success at Alabama-Birmingham University. This boded well for his CFL career where rosters are limited in size and when your one man kicking show was able to hit on 47 of 52 field goals in 2014 you know you have a good thing going.
Then in the season opener, Waters went down with an injury, leaving the Argonaut front office in a dilemma, do you need to bring in two kickers to split the duties or can you find one who can replace Waters?
The kicking try-out was won by Ronnie Pfeffer who was able to impress Head Coach Scott Milanovich , this was big for the Argos who wanted to keep one roster spot set aside for their kicking team but what was even better Pfeffer is a Canadian! This is a big deal because with a 44-player roster for each game you need to have 21 “Nationals” in your lineup. Not only has Pfeffer been doing a great job as a rookie, he’s done two jobs while allowing the Argos to have the flexibility to bring in another International.
Here is a breakdown of what other CFL teams have done with their kicking team.
B.C. Lions: Richie Leone has been doing both jobs and is an International.
Calgary Stampeders: Rene Parades and Rod Maver share the kicking duties and both are Canadian.
Edmonton Eskimos: Grant Shaw a Canadian who handles both duties.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Hugh O’Neil is a Canadian and handles the punting while Justin Medlock is their FG kicker and is an International.
Montreal Alouettes: Boris Bede is an International handling both duties. He’s also a CIS product born in France.
Ottawa REDBLACKS: Delbert Alvarado an International was released from his kicking duties, leaving them with two Canadians in Anthony Alix and Chris Milo.
Saskatchewan Roughriders: Paul McCallum is a Legend and a Canadian who kicks Field goals while Ray Early is an International handling the punting game.
Winnipeg-Liam Hajrullahu is a Canadian who handles both duties.
As you can see Pfeffer holds the same roster spot and Edmonton’s Grant Shaw and Winnipeg’s Liam Hajrullahu. The fact that these three players create an extra roster spot for an International helps their teams carry that extra Receiver or Running Back which helps generate offence. Just that on its own is enough to make a difference but when you compare the effectiveness of each kicker you can see how happy the Toronto Argonauts have been.
Kicker/Punter FG XP
Grant Shaw 14-17 16-19
Ronnie Pfeffer 12-16 11-13
Liam Hajrullahu 12-16 11-13
(statistics after week 8)
Pfeffer has been great in his first year where he has gone from being cut by the REDBLACKS in training camp to being front and centre with the Toronto Argonauts who had what may have been the longest stint on the road for any pro Football team in the history of the sport. With those great numbers and with 8 games left the very friendly Rogers Centre you have to feel the Toronto Argos are in a good spot. It bodes well for more CFL teams if you can see Canadian Universities producing kickers and punters. Considering there are 8 Canadians in 12 (67%) of the kicking jobs and with the success story of Ronnie Pfeffer it not only will make the Argos think long and hard of what to do when Swayze Waters is healthy but it will also force more CFL teams to look at Canadian products for their kicking game.
Written By: Peter T. Kourtis