May 14, 2024

Hogan: Argo Training Camp Report, Day 2

GUELPH, ON - MAY 12: Players participate in the first day of the Toronto Argonauts training camp on Sunday, May 12 at Alumni Stadium in Guelph, Ontario. (Credit: Christian Bender/Toronto Argos)

During a time of the season when players – particularly offensive and defensive linemen – are trying to save their legs, Jake Ceresna ignored that memo. At the end of the Toronto Argonauts first full practice of training camp, the defensive lineman could be seen running up and down the hill on the east side of Alumni Stadium in Guelph.

“In Edmonton we had Commonwealth Stadium, so I used to run the stairs after practice,” he told Argonauts.ca in a post-practice conversation. “I just like to do extra conditioning to make sure I’m in shape and I can last four quarters. Whatever I can do extra to make myself stand out and be a better player.”

It’s that dedication to his craft, combined with a massive amount of physical ability, that has made Ceresna one of the top defensive linemen in the CFL.

In an era where the overwhelming majority of player transactions occur via free agency, the 29-year-old arrived in Toronto the old-fashioned way, via a mid-January trade with Edmonton. Receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. was dispatched to Northern Alberta in exchange for Ceresna and the negotiation list rights to running back Khalan Laborn, who the team subsequently signed.

The trade made one specific member of the Argos coaching staff a very happy man. Defensive line coach Demetrious Maxie also came over from the Elks in the off-season and has been Ceresna’s positional coach in Edmonton since 2018. He told Argonauts.ca that the acquisition of his former player will make his job with the Boatmen much easier.

“It meant a lot,” the man known as “D-Max” said in an interview. “Because now I have another voice in the room to help implement what I’m teaching. He’s a great person, he fits well in any organization because he’s positive all the time, and he’s a hell of a player – he’ll do anything you ask him to do.”

Maxie may have a special soft spot for Ceresna as he may remind him of himself as a player. When Maxie was with the Argos, he was a player who could play either end or tackle and not look out of place at either. That versatility is something that will come into play at some point, but not right off the bat.

“We don’t want him to do that, we want him to stay at two positions inside, the two defensive tackle positions, because those guys that we have inside are going to be great and it’s just going to make the guys on the edge that much better than they already are.”

One of those players is Robbie Smith. The defensive end is now the player on the current roster with the most games played in Double Blue with 63. He told Argonauts.ca he’s thrilled to have Ceresna join his positional group.

“Before I even got a chance to meet him, I watched film on other guys, watching Edmonton’s d-line you would always see Ceresna,” said Smith. “He’s a talented guy. I always thought he was a great player, so to have him here is really amazing. Everything he brings to the table; his strength, his quickness, he really adds a lot to the d-line. I’m excited to work with him.”

Almost as excited as Ceresna is to once again work with Maxie.

“He means a lot to me,” said the native of New Fairfield, Connecticut. I credit D-Max for all of my success in the CFL. He’s been with me since 2018, since I came onto the scene and started playing really well. He’s a great coach, a great mentor for me and really the reason why I’ve had such success in the league.”

There were a handful of defections from the Argos defence in the off-season, but with Ceresna’s addition to go with Smith and other returning players like Flo Orimolade, Shawn Oakman, and Jared Brinkman, not to mention a host of incoming talent, the front four of the Argos still looks to be among the league’s best.

ARGO NOTES: After the defense dominated Day One, the offense looked better on the second day of the full camp…Perhaps the most impressive performer on the offensive side was David Ungerer III. The second-year Argo receiver got into a spirited, ongoing discussion with defensive back Chris Steele during an early blocking drill and carried that intensity throughout the remainder of practice, making several catches…Steele is one of the more vocal players in the secondary. When he broke up a pass, the receiver and QB would hear about it…The players wore helmets, but no shoulder pads…The first groups: On offence the o-line from left to right featured Isiah Cage, Ryan Hunter, Darius Ciraco, Peter Nicastro and Dejon Allen. The receivers were Ungerer, Dejon Brissett, Rasheed Bailey, DaVaris Daniels and Damonte Coxie. Ka’Deem Carey was the running back, Cameron Dukes the quarterback. On defense Flo Orimolade and Robbie Smith were the ends with Jake Ceresna and Shawn Oakman at tackle. Wynton McManis and Jonathan Jones were the linebackers, with Quincy Mauger at the SAM linebacker spot. Tarvarus McFadden and Benjie Franklin were the corners, DaShaun Amos and Mason Pierce the halfbacks, Royce Metchie was the safety…Metchie wants people to use the proper pronunciation of his name, “metch-ee-ay”, basically rhyming with the name of former NHL player Mark Messier…Two 40-yard deep balls went for touchdowns during “skelly”, which is basically the offense vs. defence without linemen. Bryan Scott hit Daniels, while Hunter Raquet connected with Changa Hodge…Former Argo running back Andrew Harris is at camp for the first week acting as an assistant coach…The first part of practice was held in pristine conditions, but the rain hit Alumni Stadium with a half-an-hour or so left to go…Tarvarus McFadden is wearing number 4 this season, Spencer Nichols is now No. 35, while kicker Alfredo Gachuz is wearing 00…Gachuz looks a lot more comfortable this year. He hit a 54-yarder with a strong cross wind blowing along the goal line from left to right. Lirim Hajrullahu hit one from 52, with both kickers having plenty of leg to spare on those field goals…Bailey was another receiver that stood out…Receiver Kevin Mital, the Argos first-round draft pick this year, suffered a minor injury during rookie camp. He’ll be out the next day or two.