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Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Division: EastGM: Kent AustinHead Coach: Kent Austin
2012: 6-12 (4th in East)vs. division 4-6
Points29.9 (1st)
Yards378.6 (2nd)
Pass Yards298.2 (1st)
Rush Yards99.6 (5th)

Making up for Williams' production a priority for Tiger-Cats

Loss of Production

The Ticats will need to find a way to make up for Williams' special teams and offensive production

Thirteen hundred receiving yards or 25% of the team’s production through the air; 1,373 combined return yards, almost half the team’s special teams production; and 17 scores, a whopping one third of the team’s total scoring.

That’s what the Hamilton Tiger-Cats stand to lose if Most Outstanding Special Teams Player and star receiver Chris Williams continues his holdout all year. To be fair, whoever the Tiger-Cats tab to be Williams replacement – both on offence and special teams – will make up for some of that loss production; but the playmaking New Mexico State product was a potential game-changer every time he had the ball in his hands last year, and that is something that just can’t be replaced.

Maybe Williams changes his mind and reports to Hamilton to play out the final year of his contract before his inevitable jump to the NFL, but at least from here, that scenario doesn’t look promising.

“(Williams’ agent) Dan (Vertlieb) has not contacted us nor has Chris,” Ticats head coach Kent Austin told reporters after a CFL arbitrator ruled the Williams’ contract with Hamilton was valid. “He’s got our numbers.”

With it looking more likely Williams will take the year off every day, it will be up to everyone else to step up some and chip away at the lost production. Finding someone to duplicate Williams’ special teams prowess will be a yeoman’s work, but the accumulated talent on offence has a fair shot to mask the receiver’s absence.

“You replace him with other guys. It’s that simple,” Austin said, adding he won’t accept the situation to be an excuse.

The “other guys” Austin was referring to are in fact a pretty impressive group of skill players in their own right.

Ticats offence not short on talent

The receiving corps still boosts bona fide Canadian star Andy Fantuz, who fell 30 yards short of a 1,000-yard receiving season, his first in Hamilton; promising imports Bakari Grant and Onrea Jones, who combined for nearly 1,000 yards receiving and nine touchdowns in their second and first year in the league respectively; and talented Canadians Dave Stala and Sam Giguere, both of whom can step in and start in Hamilton’s offence.

The Ticats also harbor an up-and-coming playmaker in Chevon Walker. The sophomore running back will have a more predominant role in the offence one year after averaging 5.6 yards per carry and scoring a combined eight touchdowns. Williams was a nightmare for opposing defences; Walker can cause similar problems.

The one driving the bus on offence is 13-year veteran QB Henry Burris. Having a veteran behind centre and running the offence can only be a good thing in a year when the unit has to adjust in the wake of a (probable) big loss. Another good thing: Burris is coming off the best season statistically of his career, throwing for 5,367 yards and 43 touchdowns.

That being said, Burris’ performance on the field didn’t always match his performance on paper and with one less playmaker at his disposal, the 38-year-old will have to tighten his game if the Ticats’ 2013 offence is to continue revving at a similar high level.

The talent is there and perhaps because of the new regime, perhaps because of circumstance, the goal for this year seems to be aiming for a more balanced attack.

"I don't think the offence has to depend on one guy," Giguere told the Canadian Press during training camp. "I think it's a weakness if it's that way and I think we have the players on offence to be able to step up and keep going.”

Linden Gaydosh

Analysis: Hamilton's first-overall draft pick proved once again the CFL Draft is often a guessing game, not in a player's ability but rather his availability.

The Tiger-Cats selected defensive lineman Linden Gaydosh first overall, in part because he seemed a safe bet to stay north of the border, before the University of Calgary product impressed during a tryout with the Carolina Panthers and signed with the NFL team.

Hamilton's next two draft picks, defensive end Brent Urban and linebacker Carl-Oliver Prime – both NCAA products – are also pursuing other opportunities, delaying the starts of their CFL careers with the Ticats.

Fourth-round receiver Simon Le Marquand is the highest pick available to the Cats in 2013 while fifth-rounders Isaac Dell and Neil King, sixth-rounder Michael Daly, and seventh-rounder Brett Lauther were also in camp.

Rd. Pick Player Pos School
1 1st overall Linden Gaydosh DL Calgary
2 15th overall Brent Urban DE Virginia
3 19th overall Carl-Olivier Prime LB Wagner College
4 37th overall Simon Le Marquand WR Ottawa
5 39th overall Isaac Dell FB Wilfrid Laurier
5 45th overall Neil King DB St. Mary's
6 47th overall Michael Daly DB McMaster
7 55th overall Brett Lauther P St. Mary's

Defence to have a different look this season

The 2013 defence will bear little semblance to last year’s, and for a unit that finished last in most major statistical categories last season, that’s a good thing.

New Sheriff in Town

The Ticats faced a lot of changes this off-season, with the biggest being Kent Austin hired to run the show.

Even the linebacking corps, the one position group on defence that has shown ability and consistency the past couple of seasons, was subject to a shakeup. The group returns two of three starters for 2013, but in different positions. Occupied by the now-departed Rey Williams last season, Jamall Johnson has shifted to the middle while Markeith Knowlton has taken Johnson’s spot on the weak side. It has seemingly been open auditions for the third starting spot in training camp but things could change when free agent acquisition Marcellus Bowman returns from a knee injury.

The defensive line “bulcked” up their Canadian content with the off-season signing of Brian Bulcke, but took a hit when top draft pick Linden Gaydosh somewhat unexpectedly signed with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, delaying the start to his CFL career in Hamilton.

The secondary has been completely revamped with Dee Webb and possibly Ryan Hinds the only returning starters from a year ago. Evan McCollough comes to Hamilton fresh from a Grey Cup in Toronto, with the Ticats hoping he brought a winning attitude with him, while James Patrick was signed after playing five years with the Roughriders, a veteran presence in an otherwise still young secondary.

Courtney Stephen, one of the many futures picks the Ticats made the past few years that are just now trickling into the system, could also see starter’s time on Hamilton’s defence. The team’s first pick in 2011 (eighth overall) can play both cornerback and safety.

07
The offence is strong, but team will miss Williams' production.

In terms of determining factors for the 2013 Ticats, all these roster moves may come second fiddle to two bigger changes the team will have to adapt to: a new head coach and a new, albeit temporary, place to call home.

Hamilton transitions from one high-profile coach lured back to the CFL from south of the border in George Cortez to another, even higher-profile coach lured back to the CFL from the US in Austin.

The last time Austin was in the league he was hoisting the Grey Cup as head coach of the Roughriders, and that’s enough to get some fans in Hamilton excited. With Austin, who has also won the Grey Cup as a player, the hope is Hamilton can turn their fortunes around and become contenders in a hurry.

But for that to happen, they’ll have to overcome their nomad status for 2013. As Chris Schultz explains in his Tiger-Cats preview, playing eight of their nine home games at the University of Guelph will be an “awkward” situation.

This all equals what could be a big distraction for a team coming off a league-worst 6-12 record, but when that offence gets hot (Williams or not) they can play with anybody anywhere. It’s up to what they hope will be an improved defence to ensure those offensive efforts result in wins rather than the high-scoring losses they were so many times a year ago.

DEPTH CHARTS

OFFENCE

DEFENCE

LT

Simmons
Ingersoll

LG

Dyakowski
Baillargeon

C

Hage
Filer

RG

O'Neill
Rice

RT

Figueroa

WR1

Giguere
McCree
Leong

SB1

Jones
Volcy

SB2

Ellingson
Diston

WR2

Hilton
Le Marquand

QB

Burris
LeFevour
Masoli
Amrhein

RB

Gable
Walker
Lamar

SB3

Fantuz
Charbonneau-Campeau

Special Teams: P/K (Congi, Bartel, Lauther), LS (Scott, Fortin)

Depth Chart is for pre-season game against Winnipeg (6/20)

Expert Analysis
Chris Schultz: Ticats' season could be awkward playing in Guelph

When thinking about the best way to describe what the 2013 season will be like for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the one word that comes to mind is 'awkward.' Make no doubt about it, playing your home games at the University of Guelph means you have little or no home field advantage.

Matt Dunigan: Burris and Austin will be great pairing for Ticats

Henry Burris meet Kent Austin! Can an old dog learn new tricks? Sure. Can an old dog continue to refine his game and hone his skills? Sure, and Austin and all the Tiger-Cats fans are counting on that.

WK AGAINST DATE WK AGAINST DATE
1 @ June 28, pm et/4pm pt 11 vs Sep 7, 4pm et/1pm pt
2 vs July 7, 5pm et/2pm pt 12 @ Sep 13, 9pm et/6pm pt
3 vs July 13, 6:30pm et/3:30pm pt 13 vs Sep 21, 4pm et/1pm pt (in Moncton)
4 @ July 21, 7pm et/4pm pt 14 vs Sep 28, 6pm et/3pm pt
5 vs July 27, 7:30pm et/4:30pm pt 15 @ Oct 4, 7pm et/4pm pt
6 @ Aug 2, 9pm et/6pm pt 16 @ Oct 14, 4:30pm et/1:30am pt
7 BYE WEEK 17 @ Oct 20, 1pm et/10am pt
8 @ Aug 16, 8pm et/5pm pt 18 vs Oct 26, 1pm et/10am pt
9 vs Aug 24, 1pm et/10am pt 19 @ Nov 2, 2pm et/11am pt
10 @ Aug 30, 10pm et/7pm pt      

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