No doubt about it

Col­laros is here from the start, his team to lead

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DREW ED­WARDS

The Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats have a num­ber of ques­tions head­ing into the 2017 sea­son, but the big one that loomed over them last year — when is Zach Col­laros com­ing back? — has al­ready been an­swered.

He’s here, per­fectly healthy and ready to go.

Col­laros re­turned last Au­gust from torn knee lig­a­ments suf­fered dur­ing the 2015 sea­son, but his pres­ence in the early stages of the sea­son was de­cid­edly muted — par­tic­u­larly in train­ing camp. While he re­mained the team’s No. 1 quar­ter­back in the­ory, he could not fill in the role in prac­tice.

“Last year I was just walk­ing around, I couldn’t do any­thing ... that was ter­ri­ble,” Col­laros said after Sun­day’s first ses­sion at Ron Joyce Sta­dium at McMaster. “It’s a lot more fun this year.”

With Jeremiah Ma­soli slated to be­gin last sea­son as the starter, Col­laros was con­scious of al­low­ing him to fill the role both on the field and off.

But now, fully healed and with the ben­e­fit of a nor­mal off-sea­son and full train­ing camp, Col­laros pro­vides lead­er­ship from day one.

“For new guys com­ing in, it’s bet­ter when I’m out there be­ing vo­cal, in­stead of just hang­ing back,” he said. “Quar­ter­back is a leader by proxy, but be­ing out there and hav­ing the face-to-face in­ter­ac­tions, you can’t re­ally re­place that.”

Col­laros led the first-string of­fence that had old and new faces. U.S. re­ceivers Ter­rence To­liver and Luke Tasker were joined by Brian Tyms, Kevin El­liott and sec­ond-year Cana­dian Mike Jones. On the O-line, the bat­tle spot is ex­pected to be right tackle where in­ter­na­tion­als Jordan Swin­dle and Mal­colm Bunche split reps.

There were some in­ter­est­ing de­vel­op­ments on the start­ing de­fence, as well.

Cana­di­ans Ted Lau­rent and Mike Atkin­son held down the de­fen­sive tackle spots, the first small clue on how the team may ad­dress the ra­tio. In the de­fen­sive back­field, Do­minique El­lis lined up at the strong-side line­backer spot — another ques­tion mark — while Emanuel Davis, an all-star at the field half the last two sea­sons, shifted over one spot to cor­ner.

Still, Austin cau­tioned not to read too much into day one of a three­week train­ing camp.

“We tell the play­ers: ‘Don’t worry about the depth chart, po­si­tion and the num­ber of reps,’ that’s a real mis­take,” Austin said. “We have a method to our eval­u­a­tion and how we move guys around from day-to­day. We don’t want the same guy run­ning the same play, for ex­am­ple. We’ll make sure we’re putting guys in a po­si­tion to get an eval­u­a­tion and to see how quickly they are learn­ing.”

Another key sto­ry­line will also be the kick­ing game.

After a se­ries of work­outs last week, the Ti­cats set­tled on three play­ers, an­nounc­ing their sign­ings Sun­day morn­ing: Ser­gio Castillo, Ryan Hawkins and Craig Peter­son. Castillo and Peter­son were at mini­camp. Hawkins played four years at North­ern Ari­zona Univer­sity, mak­ing 24 of his 29 field-goal at­tempts (82.8 per cent) and punt­ing 73 times for an av­er­age of 47.7 yards. The suc­cess­ful can­di­date has to be able to do all three jobs.

“We’re down to three and the com­pe­ti­tion is on­go­ing, sep­a­rate from what we’re do­ing out here,” Austin said. “Right now, I would say there hasn’t been a sep­a­ra­tion at this point.”

The team also signed QB Cody Keith and of­fen­sive line­man Palmer White, the lat­ter only get­ting a call after the sud­den and un­ex­pected re­tire­ment of of­fen­sive line­man Jake Ol­son. The 28-year-old suf­fered a torn patella in Septem­ber 2015 and the team kept him on the ros­ter for all of last year as he re­habbed from the in­jury, hop­ing he could make a late-sea­son re­turn that never ma­te­ri­al­ized.

Ol­son started 21 games over two sea­sons with the Ti­cats, and was thought to be can­di­date for a start­ing job com­ing into train­ing camp. But the knee has yet to fully heal and Ol­son re­cently be­came a fa­ther for the first time. Those two fac­tors led to his de­ci­sion to call it a day.

“It was a big sur­prise. He’s had quite a few surg­eries so I get that, but it was prob­a­bly more fam­ily than any­thing,” Austin said. “He made a de­ci­sion that he thought was best for him and his fam­ily.”

The team also an­nounced two other re­tire­ments, in Amer­i­can run­ning-back Jeremy Ste­wart, who got ac­cepted at the ac­claimed Wharton busi­ness school; and Cana­dian re­ceiver Matt Uren, who quit after get­ting an em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­nity. Cana­dian de­fen­sive back Tyler Sto­rie was also re­leased.

CATHIE COW­ARD, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

The Ti­cats got down to busi­ness quickly Sun­day do­ing drills on Day 1 of their train­ing camp at McMaster Univer­sity.

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