May 30, 2013

Ticats set for fresh start, as rookie camp gets underway

Kyle Myers | Staff

HAMILTON — Wednesday marked the first day of the Tiger-Cats 2013 training camp, as rookies and quarterbacks reported to McMaster’s Ron Joyce stadium to run through drills with the coaching staff.

It was the first chance for many of the rookie hopefuls to impress the coaching staff, led by GM and Head Coach Kent Austin, who once again preached the importance of fundamentals.

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“Right now we’re concerned with making sure they do things fundamentally the way we want them to,” Austin said after practice, and he isn’t kidding.

Austin spent much of Wednesday – as he did during last month’s mini-camp – with the quarterbacks, stressing the importance of things like the timing of the snap and the proper way to perform a three-step drop.

 Early in his tenure, Austin has made it apparent that he will teach the basics before he teaches the playbook.

“To me, the best coaches I’ve worked with are teachers,” said QB Henry Burris. “Guys that can not only go out there and draw up x’s and o’s, but can teach you how to execute the little things, to make you more consistent when you execute.”

Burris also recounted a conversation with Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Kerry Joseph, who shared Austin’s tendancy to stress merchanics and fundamentals. But Burris welcomed Austin’s perfectionist nature, though he admitted that it’s difficult to break out of habits he’s had for the last 14 seasons.

Learning along with Burris is rookie quarterback Chris Amrhein, whom Austin coached at Cornell.

“Chris knows the offence. He is extremely bright, he’s got a great arm and he’ll help the other quarterbacks learn the offence quicker,” said Austin of Amrhein, who was signed on Wednesday. Though Austin stressed the rookie’s ability to make those around him better, he made it clear why he signed.

“Here’s here to compete” Austin said simply.

As far as rookie standouts go, Austin himself said it best when he said that Wednesday “looked a day one” but Burris expressed his positive impression of the rookie receivers Austin brought into camp.

“There’s a number of kids out there that are looking good right now, they’re running good routes,” said Burris of the receiver group. “There’s some guys out here to keep your eye on.”
He was particularly impressed with Lyle Leong Jr., who was acquired last week in a trade with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

“We hooked up on a couple of plays, and I saw the skills that he has,” Burris said.

Keeping in mind, of course, that with such a large group of rookies, the herd must be thinned before veterans report on Sunday. However, a strong showing during rookie camp could be someone’s ticket to a spot on the Ticats roster.

Austin made it very clear that regardless of reputation or past performances, those who showed the best ability to buy into his system and play his brand of football would be the players suiting up on June 28.

And that’s just the way it should be. The Tiger-Cats were looking for a fresh start when they hired Austin and that’s exactly what they’re going to get.