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Alfieri’s Day 9 training camp notebook: Lawrence learns from LBJ, Ruffin’s strong camp

Dionte Ruffin

The Alouettes brought in plenty of new blood in free agency this winter, but one of the more important signings came in the form of centre Justin Lawrence.

The acquisition of Lawrence is even more important to the Alouettes because of the knee injury to Sean Jamieson, who will start the season on the six-game injured list.

The 27-year-old, who was an East Division All-Star and Grey Cup winner with the Toronto Argonauts last season, has been a day-one starter on the offensive line in training camp this year. He has established himself as one of the premier centres in the CFL.

“I have seen him fit in, and that’s what every offensive lineman wants,” head coach Jason Maas said. “They’re the tightest group on the team. The offensve and the defensive linemen are usually your tightest groups, so watching them fit in with each other, and Justin has been an integral part of that. As a center, you’re usually one of the leaders. You’re usually one of the ones that speaks the most and I have seen him fit in, and he’s a talented player. We have some good quality depth at that position, but Justin has done his part for sure.”

The former University of Alberta Golden Bear was drafted by Calgary in the fifth round of the 2018 CFL Draft. He was with the Stampeders from 2018 to 2021, but he left his home province to join the Argos in free agency in 2022.

Lawrence started all but one game for the Argos last year, including the playoffs. Despite the success he had in Toronto, the veteran felt like it was time to make the move to Montreal this season.

“For every person in the CFL, they’re looking to expand on their career and grow as a player. For me, it was kind of a no-brainer coming here and being able to grow into a position, and hopefully be a guy here the rest of my career. That was something I was really looking forward to. It was a combination of the coaches, the guys on this team and the potential of it, like I said, it was kind of a no-brainer for me to come here.”

He also has the benefit of learning from one of the best centers in franchise history in Luc Brodeur-Jourdain, who is now the offensive line coach.

“Learning under (Brodeur-Jourdain), one of the best centers to play in this league, is a great opportunity for me.

“It’s a different experience for me. I have gone from coaches who weren’t necessarily players at a high level. Having LBJ, who is fresh off of a great career and a centre, it’s great because when we’re going through our meetings, he isn’t going to sugarcoat stuff or get us to do stuff that isn’t realistic.”

Dionte Ruffin’s strong camp:

Jumal Rolle’s retirement opened up a spot in the starting secondary, and Dionte Ruffin is the one who has benefited the most.

Ruffin has been used at both cornerback spots with the starting defence from the beginning of training camp this year. The 24-year-old had a strong first week of camp, and that continued Monday, as he had a pair of knockdowns during practice.

“It feels real good to be out here running with these guys,” Ruffin said. “They were a great defence last year, and I’m just happy to be part of it. We’re a solid group and I’d like it to stay that way.

“(I’m) a pretty sticky defensive back. No matter the route, I feel like I’m always there on the receiver and I’m really feisty when it comes to the finish. I’m trying to get the ball out no matter how it happens. I’m not scared to get involved in the run game. You can look at my tackles and know that.”

Ruffin spent his rookie season with the Stampeders in 2022. He made 39 tackles on defence, one on special teams, and one interception in nine games with the Stamps.

The Western Kentucky product didn’t want to expand on why the relationship between he and Calgary didn’t work out, but he clearly pointed out that there is no bad blood between the two sides.

“Things didn’t align for both sides,” Ruffin admitted. “I believe it was for the best. I’m in a great position now and I’m happy to be here. I don’t want to be anywhere else.”

COMING UP NEXT:

The Alouettes will be back on the practice field at Stade Diablos on Tuesday morning at 8:30 am.