CIS-Con: Toronto Argonauts have 2 bright young Bisons alumni

(Over the next few days, this blog will do its best to give a rundown on how CIS alumni figure into the grand scheme for each CFL team. Friendly reminder: the ratio in the CFL requires each team to have seven 'nationals' among the 24 defensive and offensive starters. It should be 10, five on each side of the ball, but one battle at a time ... one battle at a time.)

The Argonauts' directors of scouting on each side of the border, Vince Magri and Spencer Zimmerman, are each former OUA O-linemen. Thus it is not surprising that their roster has a strong southern Ontario flavour with 14 OUA alumni — three  apiece from McMaster, Guelph, U of T and York, and two from Western. Unofficially, Toronto has 22 nationals who got some of their training in CIS.

The brightest young nationals might be the two former Manitoba Bisons, though, SB Anthony Coombs and LB Thomas Miles.

Coombs is listed as a running back but in use and deed, he's a 'slash back,' to borrow a Chip Kelly-ism. Broadly, that is a receiver with a running back build and skill set, and Coombs contributed 486 of his 525 receiving-rushing yards through the passing phase. Miles was also a nice second-half revelation last season, starting seven games from Sept. 26 onward.

Whether the Argonauts' plethora of CIS alumni is pertinent to the 'turf war' between the football fans and Toronto FC fans is debatable. That said, it is a taxpayer-funded stadium and the football team really is focused on developing Canadian and Ontario players. That should count for something, no?

That said, what has been left out of that Argos-to-BMO media furor is that the soccer fans have also been under-served. The Argonauts being a lame duck at Rogers Centre is easier to evoke, due to recency bias. Soccer fans went a long time without a proper venue in their city. If someone ever writes a book about the tectonic shifts in Toronto sports during the 1990s, there better be a chapter about Canada's men's soccer team playing home games at a crumbling Varsity Stadium.

Receivers / backs — Taking the long view, whether No. 4 overall choice Brian Jones (Acadia) gets much run this season will be a big story. Jones has a wrist injury. Between Llevi Noel (Windsor AKO Fratmen juniors/U of T) and Kevin Bradfield, the Argos have two other young national wideouts.

Coombs brings a unique something to Toronto's Air Raid-esque passing game, just as Durie has done for several seasons. McMaster grad Declan Cross has stuck as a fullback.

Offensive lineChris Van Zeyl (McMaster) has been the frontside-protecting tackle for years on end, regardless of the quarterback or home field (sorry). Third-year tackle Matt Sewell (McMaster) is working toward a starting job. Sean McEwen (Calgary) is also a former first-rounder who has working toward gaining a foothold.

Defensive front seven — With Ricky Foley (York) and his 56 career sacks, veteran linebacker Cory Greenwood (Concordia) and the aforementioned Miles (Manitoba) as a utility player, Toronto has some solid nationals in the force unit.

Veteran special teams ace James Yurichuk (Bishop's) also came in as a free agent. Speaking of ex-Gaiters!

Defensive secondary — How was Jermaine Gabriel (Bishop's) available at No. 17 overall in 2013? The mind reels. Well, that and he had a breakout at the regional combine. Gabriel and Matt Black are the only nationals in the secondary.

Specialists Lirim Hajrullahu (Western), for now, is doing double duty as the botteur. The jury might be out on that until well into the season.


The argument for Andre Durie — Thanks to Jim Mullin's indefatigable advocacy journalism, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame now has a process to induct someone as a university player. Knowing that, and knowing Durie is 34 years old, sparks one to wondering whether he has a case to go in through that avenue.

Durie was that awesometacular with the York Lions. The rub is that the inductees as university players have been legends, multiple-time Hec Crighton winners such as Chris Flynn and Éric Lapointe. Playing at York at the same time that Tom Denison, Andy Fantuz and Jesse Lumsden were playing on Top 10 teams, Durie was not in the right place to win the Hec Crighton. Yet that makes his achievements at York seem even greater. Throw in what he did to make the CFL after missing two seasons with nerve damage in a knee, and then become a 10-year pro ... that just seems like the kind of career that deserves some Hall of Fame recognition.
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