Tiger-cats set for first lessons in the Austin doc­trine

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DREW ED­WARDS ded­wards@thes­pec.com 905-526-2481 | @scratch­ing­post

The in­her­ent lim­i­ta­tions of the CFL’s off­sea­son work­outs mean there are a num­ber of things that new Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats’ head coach and gen­eral man­ager Kent Austin can’t do. He can’t in­stall an of­fence, there isn’t enough time. He can’t get a great read on his new play­ers, there isn’t enough con­tact.

But there’s one thing Austin can do and it’s an im­por­tant one — per­haps the most im­por­tant one.

“I’m big on cul­ture and this is the first step in es­tab­lish­ing the cul­ture that we want to cre­ate here,” he said.

The Ti­cats are coming off both a dis­ap­point­ing 6-12 cam­paign and their sec­ond ma­jor front-of­fice over­haul in as many sea­sons. Gone are gen­eral man­ager Bob O’Billovich and head coach Ge­orge Cortez and in their place stands Austin, a man who left the CFL five years ago af­ter win­ning the 2007 Grey Cup.

In essence, the team is start­ing from scratch and it’s up to Austin to build it from the ground up, right down to the minu­tiae.

“We’re go­ing to put a lit­tle less em­pha­sis on schemes and plays and more of an em­pha­sis on fun­da­men­tal work,” Austin said. “We’ll work on how we want to prac­tise, the en­ergy in­volved, how we want to pre­pare in meet­ings, how we take coach­ing, set­ting up the things we be­lieve in.”

More than 50 play­ers will be prac­tis­ing at Ron Joyce Field on the cam­pus of McMaster Univer­sity in the next three days. Though a num­ber of veter­ans are ex­pected — it’s op­tional for those with CFL ex­pe­ri­ence — there will be a sub­stan­tial num­ber of play­ers look­ing to earn an in­vite to train­ing camp in June.

“The best eval­u­a­tion is when you have full pads on and there’s con­tact,” Austin said. “But this will cer­tainly give us a sense of over­all ath­leti­cism and skill set, the abil­ity to take coach­ing.”

Among the fresh faces will be two quar­ter­backs. Jeremiah Ma­soli was ac­quired in an off-sea­son trade with Ed­mon­ton, while Brian Brohm was signed on Tues­day. Brohm was se­lected in the sec­ond round, 56th over­all in the 2008 draft by the Green Bay Pack­ers, and played in three games with Buf­falo in 2009 and 2010.

“We’ll go over how we call things, and things like snap count, hud­dle pro­ce­dure and play call­ing, how we at­tack the de­fence con­cep­tu­ally, but we’re not go­ing to put in a ton of plays,” said Austin, a former CFL pivot him­self.

“Part of this is learn­ing what they know and see­ing where there’s a fit based on their ex­pe­ri­ence and where they need to be re­trained to do things the way we want them to do it.”

Ex­pect a full com­ple­ment of veter­ans at the skill po­si­tions. Run­ning backs Chevon Walker and Martell Mal­lett as well as re­ceivers Andy Fan­tuz, Sam Giguère, Bakari Grant and On­rea Jones are all ex­pected. Chris Wil­liams, un­happy with his con­tract, will not at­tend.

On de­fence, newly ac­quired line­backer Si­moni Lawrence, de­fen­sive back James Pa­trick and re­turnees Dee Webb, Ryan Hinds and Bo Smith are all ex­pected to suit up.

Among those who aren’t coming: most of the start­ing of­fen­sive line, a num­ber of veter­ans among the front seven on de­fence and those whose con­tri­bu­tion comes largely on spe­cial teams.

But the next three days will be as much about the coaches as it will be about the play­ers as Austin and his crew try to set the tone for the sea­son.

“I know how I be­lieve guys should be coached philo­soph­i­cally and you have to tai­lor that coach­ing to the in­di­vid­ual player and his per­son­al­ity,” Austin said. “You’ll see how we coach on the field, our de­meanour, our en­thu­si­asm. I want our coaches to be au­then­tic, to be who they are be­cause, if you’re not, play­ers will see right through that.” NOTES: In ad­di­tion to Brohm — whose deal is ex­pected to be made of­fi­cial Wed­nes­day — the Ti­cats an­nounced the sign­ing of three de­fen­sive line­men on Tues­day. Monte Lewis (6-foot-3, 241 pounds) re­turns to Hamil­ton af­ter spend­ing three weeks on the Ti­cats’ prac­tice ros­ter last sea­son. Craig Mar­shall (6-foot-4, 279 pounds) fin­ished his ca­reer at the Univer­sity of South Florida with 73 de­fen­sive tack­les and nine quar­ter­back sacks. Sam Scott (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) saw ac­tion in two games with the Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers in 2011, record­ing four de­fen­sive tack­les and three spe­cial-teams tack­les. ... On Mon­day, the team inked Ni­a­gara Falls na­tive and Burling­ton Brave Jay Dis­ton, who prac­tised with the team most of last year, as well as im­port re­ceivers Shay Hodge and Ouslet Volcy.

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