Andy Fantuz sprinted out of the gate to open the 2013 Canadian Football League season.
He caught 10 balls for 155 yards and a touchdown in week one, but was slowed to a walking pace after suffering a hamstring injury in practice just days later.
“You can’t rush a torn hamstring, especially as a receiver you have to be able to run,” Fantuz said. “I couldn’t run, so I couldn’t play, so it wasn’t even really a decision.”
“It was frustrating, I mean you come in and work so hard all off-season and start feeling back to form, finally healthy, explosive and confident and all that, and something like [the hamstring injury] happens.”
After missing five games, Fantuz was back working with the first team offence during practice in preparation for the Ticats week 8 meeting with the Blue Bombers.
|Dunk dials in on the 'D'|
CFL.ca's Tiger-Cats columnist Justin Dunk breaks down a pair of crucial defensive stops in Hamilton's last contest in Edmonton in the latest entry of 'Dunk Dials In'...Read More.
“It’s been a long wait, but I’m excited to get going,” the veteran receiver said.
“It’s going to take time just to get back in the swing of things, but I’m definitely still going to be a big part of the offence.”
According to offensive coordinator Tommy Condell, despite Fantuz being out for an extended period of time, the chemistry with Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris hasn’t been disrupted.
“I don’t see anything different,” he said. “He’s played with him for a year, so nothing of those problems will ever arise.”
Condell is certainly looking forward to having the big Canadian pass catcher back in the lineup.
“He’s a veteran that has played a lot of football games and has won some championships, so he brings that back to the mix,” he said.
“His intelligence, his football IQ and time and space ability is outstanding, that’s what makes him such a great player. We anticipate, always, Andy playing at a high level, and when the ball goes his way he needs to produce the same numbers that he did in week one.”
Even though the Ticats were without Fantuz and his steady production for five weeks, it allowed other receivers to step up and show their play making abilities, most notably second year non-import receiver Sam Giguere.
In week one, when Fantuz was in the lineup, Giguere caught one pass. Through the five games that Fantuz was on the sidelines, Giguere recorded at least three receptions. Including a season-high six catch performance in the Ticats last game, a 30-29 win over the Eskimos.
“I think Sam has improved as the weeks have progressed,” Condell said.
“He’s a big part of our offence, so him making the clutch catches he’s been making lately, we have a lot more confidence in him and he’s got a lot more confidence in his own game,” Fantuz added. “Now we have another serious weapon on the field. He’s always been good, but he just seems to be taking his game to the next level.”
With Giguere raising his play, and Fantuz healed and healthy, the Ticats just might have found an exciting and lethal 1-2 Canadian punch at receiver.
Dunk Dials In
Hamilton’s run defence was much maligned through the first five games of the 2013 schedule, but in the 30-29 win over Edmonton in week 6 it was a much different story for the Ticats front seven. After allowing five straight opposing rushers to go over the century mark to start the year, the Tabbies held the Eskimos to just 71 net rushing yards, by far the Tiger-Cats best performance against the run this season.
Two basic principals to stopping the run on defence are penetration and leverage.
On two separate plays against the Eskimos, the Ticats used both of those keys to halt the Eskies ground game.
In the first quarter with just over three and a half minutes on the clock, first-and-ten, the Eskimos call an end around running play or receiver sweep to the outside on the right. Ticats defensive lineman Brandon Boudreaux sees Cary Koch coming in motion from left to right and taking the handoff from quarterback Mike Reilly. Koch had barely secured the football when Boudreuax got his hands on him to drop Koch for a six-yard loss.
A blocking assignment mistake led to Boudreaux running free to Koch, but credit him with recognizing the play coming his way and busting through the line to make a sure tackle on the runner. A big first down stop by Boudreaux, because of his backfield penetration, helped Hamilton force a quick two-and-out on the series.
Jump to the fourth quarter, Eskimos looking to respond to a Ticats touchdown, Edmonton went to the run game. About 12 minutes on the clock, first-and-10 for the Eskies who call running play to Hugh Charles.
Both Hamilton defensive tackles, Torrey Davis and Brian Bulcke, do a fine job of firing off the ball low and getting under the pads of the offensive linemen, driving them back into the offensive backfield.
Davis’ effort on the play was particularly impressive. He stood up Eskimos guard Brian Ramsay, pushed him a couple yards into the offensive back field before ripping off to make the tackle on Charles, holding the back to a gain of two. Davis used leverage to establish a new line of scrimmage and disrupt the offensive blocking scheme and it was over at that point. Edmonton couldn’t convert on second and long, and once again the Ticats defence was off the field after just two plays.
If the defensive line can continue to stay low, get under the offensive linemen firing off the ball and penetrate into the opposing offence’s backfield, Hamilton’s defence will be able to continue to be as effective stopping the run as they were in Week 6 against the Eskimos.