Preseason preview: eight rookies to watch in Argonauts vs. Ticats

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Steve Conner

The CFL preseason is a time of renewal and opportunity. Hundreds of new faces arrive in Canadian training camps eager to make their mark, battling it out for a handful of open jobs. For most, the stay will be brief. For others, it will be their first step toward a prosperous career.

With all preseason games now available to stream live, determining which unfamiliar names actually merit close attention is a daunting task for fans. As always, 3DownNation will have you covered with a cheat sheet of first-time CFL players to watch ahead of each exhibition contest.

On Saturday afternoon, the QEW rivalry will be renewed when the Argonauts travel south to take on the Tiger-Cats. Both teams will be fielding experienced rosters, with Chad Kelly set to make his debut as Toronto’s starter and Bo Levi Mitchell wearing a Hamilton uniform for the first time. While the attention is on the quarterbacks, here are eight rookies I’ll be watching.

Toronto Argonauts

Photo courtesy: Monmouth Athletics

#88 Lonnie Moore IV, REC, Monmouth University

Quarterback Chad Kelly was the star of the Argos’ intra-squad scrimmage, but receiver Lonnie Moore wasn’t far behind with an outstanding performance of his own. Of course, prolific production is nothing new for the five-foot-10, 175-pound speedster, who was a three-time all-conference receiver during his time with the Monmouth Hawks while amassing 4,880 all-purpose yards. With at least one job available in Toronto’s receiving corps, the 25-year-old could make himself the front-runner with another strong showing against a real opponent.

Photo courtesy: Fan Controlled Football

#42 Qwan’tez Stiggers, DB, N/A

One of the youngest players in any CFL training camp at just 21 years old, Stiggers also possesses one of the most unique stories in the league having never played college football. The six-foot, 197-pound defender got his start in the Fan Controlled Football League in 2022, proving to be an elite ballhawk with the quickness to cover man-to-man in tight spaces. He’ll need live reps to prove he has the range to survive on the much larger CFL field and that his lack of experience isn’t an insurmountable hurdle.

Photo: AP/Butch Dill

#5 Bryan Scott, QB, Occidental College

With the most inexperienced starting quarterback in the league and no proven depth behind him, establishing a quality insurance policy will be critical for Toronto. Returning pivot Ben Holmes has the leg up on the backup job but Scott has well-established cult hero status for fans of alternative football, having won MVP of The Spring League in 2020. He has previous CFL experience with the B.C. Lions and Edmonton Elks but has never seen regular season action, remaining coveted by teams north of the border while bouncing around the USFL and XFL.

Photo courtesy: Colorado School of Mines

#11 Mason Pierce, DB, Colorado School of Mines

Pierce doesn’t look like much at a slightly built five-foot-10 and 185-pounds but his elite speed and quickness offer intriguing upside. A second-team Division II All-American who put up five picks as a senior, the Bulverde, Tex. native recorded a 4.49-second forty-yard dash and 6.84-second three-cone at his pro day. He’ll get a shot at halfback against Hamilton but has the athleticism and mental processing to play anywhere in the secondary.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym

#83 Justin McGriff, REC, Utah State University

With an apparent training camp injury to second-year man Anthony Johnson this week, the Ticats have a sudden pressing need at receiver and McGriff is the guy who has gotten all the buzz in training camp. A former tight end commit to Nebraska, his massive six-foot-six, 215-pound frame made him a matchup nightmare on the outside after transferring to Utah State. Hamilton needs exactly that type of receiver to round out their offensive arsenal and it appears to be McGriff’s job to lose.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Wade Payne

#35 Kenneth George Jr., DB, University of Tennessee

Hamilton has an open competition at cornerback and George will get the first snaps at the position on Saturday instead of sophomore Will Sunderland. The six-foot, 194-pound cover man is an interesting prospect given that he was never a full-time starter for the Volunteers in college but earned a UDFA contract with the Tennessee Titans as a tryout player. He’s a physical gamer with the length to compete on the outside but will need a strong outing to overcome a known quantity on the depth chart.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Nell Redmond

#46 Dexter Lawson, DB, Appalachian State University

A standout at this year’s College Gridiron Showcase in Texas, Lawson was an All-American at Central Connecticut State before transferring and leading the Mountaineers in interceptions as a senior. He’s not overly fast at five-foot-10 and 190 pounds, but his quick feet and fluid hips are obvious live. With jobs available in the Ticats’ secondary, the Bloomfield, Conn. native history of rising to the level of competition makes him a real contender.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Adam Hunger

#34 Tayon Fleet-Davis, RB, University of Maryland

James Butler’s job as the starting running back is not in jeopardy, but the Ticats have needed multiple ball carriers in recent years. Fleet-Davis is back garnering the most attention right now and he fits the physical mould that Hamilton has coveted. At six-foot and 213 pounds, the former Terrapin is a load coming downhill and could eat up yardage when the second-team unit enters the game.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.