Tiger-cats set for first lessons in the Austin doctrine
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.