HAMILTON — Maurice Mann will be on the move in the offensive backfield much more this year.
Mann, heading into his second season with the Black and Gold, has moved one spot closer to Kevin Glenn and he will routinely be lined up at the boundary slot receiver position.
Mann has experience at the slotback spot from his time with the Edmonton Eskimos and Ticats offensive coordinator Khari Jones saw the potential to transition the veteran receiver inside because of what he was able to show in limited reps at slot a season ago.
“We had him in the slot a few times last year and he did some good things for us. The second half of the season Mo was one of our top performers and really took that step forward that you want to see,” Jones said.
“We plan to use him in a lot of different ways, but being able to use him at slot is going to open up a lot of possibilities for us.”
The tall, smooth-route-running Mann views the move inside as a chance to increase his knowledge of football.
“It’s an adjustment and it means more film,” he said. “I was focused mainly on studying outside last year and just dabbling in the middle, but now I need to understand coverages and all types of protections. It makes you more of a well-rounded receiver.”
Jones, the former quarterback, knows how nice it can be to have a receiver of Mann’s stature lined up closer to the pivot.
“It’s a fast game, but to have those big targets close to the quarterback is a luxury, especially a guy who can move,” he said. “He’s one of those guys that is just explosive and can take a short pass and make it into a deep one and not every receiver can do that. He can be something special.”
“I think the move to put me in there will help stretch our offence vertically in the slot. I’m just trying to add a little bit of something to what we may have been lacking last year,” Mann said.
Glenn and the Nevada grad’s on-field relationship improves with each pass thrown, but it may be the bonding off the field, which puts the connection over the top.
“Toward the end of last season they were really on the same page, they really got to know each other and it just takes reps,” Jones said.
“It’s bigtime, me and Kevin get to hang out in our spare time, which ultimately makes you gel as friends. Having your friend out there being your quarterback is a luxury as a receiver,” Mann said. “It’s important that we communicate on the regular and we’re for each other.”
As the chemistry between pivot and pass catcher grows on the football field, Mann has his sights set on becoming one of the most formidable slot backs in the league in an effort to show up one of his former Eskimo teammates.
Last Friday, Fred Stamps spoke boldly in saying he was the best slot receiver in the CFL.
“That’s exactly what I expect him to say. If you want to be the best you better be saying that,” Mann said. “I will stand right up there with him and tell him that you’ve got a challenger out here in Hamilton. If you ask me that question who do you think I’m going to say, that’s part of being good at the position, believing that you’re the best at the position, and striving to make yourself better.”
Jones’ emphasis on attacking defences vertically should see Mann frustrate defenders league-wide by taking them for a ride downtown, but he does truly put the team goals before his own, no questions asked.
“I’m ready to go, but it’s not just about stats for me. Once you get out there you understand that you can have all the accolades you want, but those will eventually fade,” Mann said. “Everybody here wants a ring and the numbers are going to come.”
The five-year CFL veteran believes the focus of the talented Ticats receiving corp is not on who gets the ball or who scores that crucial touchdown, but on the success of the unit as whole.
“We are all going to be celebrating on one leg and with are hands tilted for [Arland] Bruce if it’s him and we’re going to be punting balls out of the stadium if it’s [Dave] Stala,” Mann said. “We’re a family.”