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News And Notes From Day 8 Of Toronto Argonauts Training Camp

The first week of training camp for the Toronto Argonauts is in the books. After six straight days of long practices where the new-look Boatmen shook off their rust and attempted to get acclimated to one another, head coach, Ryan Dinwiddie, decided to give his team a break on Friday. The Argos were back on Saturday practicing on a grass surface at Guelph’s Gryphon Soccer complex. While technically, it’s the teams seventh day of practicing, Saturday was day 8 at camp.

Centre Of Attention On The Toronto Argonauts Offence

On Friday, the Toronto Argonauts placed OL Cody Speller on their suspended list. The Double Blue has ten players currently on their list. Speller joins WR’s Martavis Bryant, Kendall Wright, Keyarris Garrett, and Brandon Sheperd. As well as DB’s Robert Woodson and James Sample, DL Fabian Foote and LB’s Nick Shortill and Nelkas Kwemo.

Cody Speller, the young veteran interior linemen, acquired by Toronto in a trade with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers back in January, was projected by many to be the Argos starting centre when the regular season started. On Saturday, coach Ryan Dinwiddie revealed that Speller was placed on the suspended list because he needed to take care of a personal issue.

The Argonauts have reinforced the trenches on the interior of their offensive line with the additions of Speller, Dariusz Bladek, and Philip Blake. All three players have experience playing the pivot position. Speller’s absence, depending on how lengthy it is, increases the likelihood that someone else will replace him. Philip Blake, the most senior member of the group, would seem to be the most logical choice to slide over from guard and occupy the centre spot come week one in Calgary.

However, coach Ryan Dinwiddie admitted after practice today that his preference is to leave Blake at guard.

Speller’s absence has opened the door for Toronto’s first-round selection in the 2021 draft, Peter Nicastro. The seventh overall selection out of the University of Calgary figures to be one of the team’s top swing linemen in the trenches, capable of playing guard or centre. But the absence of Speller has created an opportunity for the rookie to get more first-team reps and speed up his learning process transitioning from U sports to being a pro. Something he discussed earlier this week in his first open session with the media.

“The speed of the game,” “Everything happens a lot quicker and our d-line (has) some of the best guys in the league. So just getting used to their speed and power…and just being comfortable with the playbook.”

Argonauts G/C Peter Nicasto when asked about the adjustments he has had to make as a rookie in camp.

Ryan Dinwiddie told Ben Grant of X’s and Argos today that he thought so highly of Peter Nicastro coming out of college that he had him rated as the #1 player on his draft board. Dinwiddie also revealed that in all the mock drafts that Toronto conducted leading into the CFL draft, none of them had Nicastro falling to them late in the first round. The Argos staff was elated that they landed the former Dinos standout. Dinwiddie expects Nicastro to be a top starting centre in the CFL for years to come. Nicastro’s ascent could come sooner than anticipated.

MBT making his case to be The Argonauts QB1

The last time, the CFL was in action two years ago. The player who led the entire league in touchdown passes was McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The well-traveled veteran signal-caller came into his own in 2019. Many quarterbacks over the years have had difficulties transitioning to the Canadian Game. But Bethel-Thompson’s hard work and dedication have paid off. He’s found his comfort zone as a passer in the CFL.

Going into camp with Toronto this summer, the consensus was that Bethel-Thompson was brought back by Toronto strictly as an insurance policy for the talented but largely unproven Nick Arbuckle, who many figure because of his experience with coach Dinwiddie, will be the Boatmen’s week one starter against Calgary on August 7th.

Although, MBT rejoined the Argonauts officially in June. Ryan Dinwiddie told the media last Monday that he talked to Bethel-Thompson the day he was hired as Argos coach after the 2019 season. Toronto attempted to sign Bethel-Thompson as far back as 2020. With no 2020 CFL season, MBT wanted to test the waters of free agency in America before returning to Canada. Bethel-Thompson played in the Spring League with the Aviators in the fall of 2020 and worked out for NFL teams before circling back to Toronto. It was revealed this week that Bethel-Thompson received the offensive install from Dinwiddie a year ago.

MBT has been sharing first-team reps in camp and has impressed the Argonauts coaching staff and his teammates with his leadership. No matter how things shake out in the next couple of weeks, Toronto knows that they are in great hands if Bethel-Thompson is captaining the ship for the Boatmen’s offence.

Shane Ray Poised To Make An Impact For The Argos Immediately

When it comes to CFL teams signing former NFL players, it has always been a roll of the dice. The transition to the Canadian game is challenging, and often high-profile American-based players with top NFL draft pedigrees don’t come in with the right mindset. Some of the players who make the journey up north, big-time the CFL, and expect preferential treatment.

By all accounts thus far, former Missouri standout and Denver Broncos first-round pick Shane Ray has not been one of those types of players. Ray has displayed the elite pass-rushing traits on the practice field that made him a highly touted pro prospect. For many, what has stood out so far in camp is Ray’s attention to detail in a brand new defense and his leadership skills working with the Argonauts coaches and his teammates.

On the field, Ray has dominated one-on-ones and looks fully recovered from the injuries that plagued him in the NFL. Ray has also shown his prowess setting the edge against the run in camp. Coach Ryan Dinwiddie has raved about Ray’s performance and presence. “The first day he came in here, he brought a level of physicality, he raised the bar, and helped our defense get to another level.”

Although, the Argonauts have a talented and experienced CFL defensive line with the likes of Charleston Hughes, Cordarro Law, and others. It’s looking very likely that Ray will be playing plenty for the Argos once the season starts. The question with Ray has never been about talent. It’s at an elite level; his attitude thus far as a CFL rookie has matched that. And the latter is the reason why Ray could buck the trend and be an instant star with the Toronto Argonauts.

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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