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May 15, 2018

O’Leary: Picton lands opportunity to compete in Toronto

Jason Halstead/CFL.ca

If there was one takeaway from the Toronto Argonauts’ season preview call, it’s that the keys to the team’s offence cannot and will not be pried from Ricky Ray’s capable hands.

Argos coach Marc Trestman made it abundantly clear on Tuesday’s call that Ray will be the team’s starter this season, refusing to entertain any scenario where recently-signed QB James Franklin could usurp Ray.

“James Franklin is vying in a competition with three other quarterbacks, none of who are Ricky Ray,” Trestman said, putting his veteran, Grey Cup-winning pivot at the top of his pyramid.

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Picton will have the opportunity to learn from the greats in the Argonauts QB room (Jason Halstead/CFL.ca)

“James Franklin’s got to beat out (McLeod) Bethel-Thompson first. (He’s) been here and he knows the system and Dakota (Prukop has) been here as well. He does have playing time and we hold him in very high regard but Ricky Ray is the quarterback here. He’s going to play every down as long as we can play him and there’s no other way of saying it.”

Trestman went on to say that it’s “almost disrespectful” to Ray to wonder if his job would in any way be in jeopardy in training camp.

So, Ray goes into Sunday’s training camp as the unquestioned starter and Franklin will battle to be one play away from getting in the game this season. On the other end of that QB spectrum sits the team’s newest quarterback, Noah Picton. The team signed him on May 14, after the Regina born and bred pivot, the winner of the Hec Crighton award in 2016, didn’t hear his name called at last week’s CFL Draft. He will no doubt be one of the most eager faces at York University when the Argos’ training camp kicks off.

“He was on our draft board. He graded out well enough to be drafted,” Argos GM Jim Popp said.

“Sometimes you go through the draft…and sometimes you have to take (based on) need. It wasn’t a necessary need at quarterback. In regards to him, I truly believe he deserves a shot.”

Size may have been one of the reasons Picton slipped through the draft. At five-foot-eight and 177 pounds, Picton has spent his athletic life proving that heart is a more valuable measurable than size.

“He’s got things working against him, his so-called Doug Flutie (factors) when you are the height that you are doing this,” Popp said.

 

Picton has set Canada West records for passing (9,840 yards) and completions (720) and has been named a Canada West All-Star and a U SPORTS All-Canadian in back-to-back seasons.

“He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s so cerebral, he plays the game the right way. I’m excited to see what he can do and actually get out there and compete at a pro level and know what he can do,” Popp said.

Trestman admitted that he hasn’t seen Picton play at all yet, but is intrigued with him after some initial contact made with him over the last few days.

“I’ve had some text conversations with him and I’ve been impressed with that alone. I hope to get to know him over the next few weeks,” Trestman said.

“I’m very excited to get a chance to see him out at practice. Jim speaks very, very highly of him. I’m looking forward to meeting him, not only from a football standpoint but from a personal standpoint. I can just tell by the minimal dialogue that we’ve had that he’s going to be a fun guy to coach.”

Like Franklin, Prukop and McLeod — all young quarterbacks looking to latch on as a starter in the CFL — Picton will walk into arguably the best, most knowledgeable quarterbacks room in all of the CFL. He’ll have his fellow QBs with their knowledge of the game (Ray in particular, who enters his 16th season) and a support staff that features new quarterbacks coach Anthony Calvillo, offensive coordinator Tommy Condell and of course, Trestman, an offensive mind that has worked extensively in the NFL and with Calvillo and Ray through his time in the CFL.

Wherever the next few weeks take Picton, this is a golden opportunity for him.

“This is a guy that wants to be a coach when he’s done playing,” Popp said of Picton.

“I just feel he deserves the opportunity. I called coach (Trestman) and talked to the personnel staff and I said, ‘I really want to give this young man a chance.’ So I was glad he wanted … he didn’t hesitate. He wanted to be in camp and come in and compete.”