June 4, 2014

Dunk: Austin takes a unique approach to the ratio



HAMILTON — It’s been an ongoing part of Kent Austin’s plan since the day he was hired by the Ticats: piece together and maintain a deep group of Canadians.

Non-import talent is of the utmost importance for franchises across the Canadian Football League, but the way Austin and his staff designed their CanCon strategy is different from the norm.

Under CFL rules each team must start seven Canucks on a given game day. Generally organizations decide on seven positions where they would like to start their Canadians and draft and develop accordingly, building as much depth at the designated non-import spots as possible. So essentially if the starter at a labeled Canadian position gets hurt the next man on the depth chart steps into a starting role.

» CFL Import/Non-Import Ratio explained

Austin decided to use an uncommon strategy, stock up on top-end Canadians, regardless of where a player might line up on the field.

“I believe you build there first. We said that from day one after we got here, we wanted to take a different approach,” Austin explained. “We don’t want to cubbyhole a position as just a Canadian position. We want to get as much flexibility and depth in the Canadian content on both sides of the ball, so when we inevitably face injuries we have the ability to move the pieces around to put the strongest football team on the field.”

As the current Ticats roster is constructed there are a variety of options for Hamilton to fill their Canadian starting positions. Newly added defensive lineman Ted Laurent, along with Brian Bulcke, Craig Butler, Courtney Stephen and Frederic Plesius give the Black and Gold five possible starters on defence. Over on the other side of the ball, Andy Fantuz, Samuel Giguere and a strong contingent of interior Canadian offensive linemen could conceivably give Hamilton five potential starters on offence. If you do the quick math, five on offence and five on defence, it is a group of non-import players 10 deep, all more than capable of starting in the CFL.

“If you don’t have that flexibility than the degree that you fall as far as the quality of the content on the field can be dramatic,” Austin said.

We’re not likely going to see the Ticats field a lineup with 10 starting Canadians, but having so many non-imports on the roster with the ability to start is a luxury Hamilton has worked hard to achieve.

“On both sides of the ball we have a lot of guys that can play and can start,” Fantuz, winner of the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian Award in 2010, said.

A lot of the Ticats recent Canadian acquisitions have been on defence.

“In Saskatchewan we had a lot of background players, not necessarily starters. Our depth there was amazing, but here you see potential starters that are Canadian that is rare to see in this league,” Butler, one of Hamilton’s key off-season non-import signees, said.

“When you have Canadians that can do it [start] I think it’s a bonus. The difference is just the amount of talent we have here. It’s pretty unparalleled.”

Austin and his staff have assembled an impressive corps of Canadians full of high calibre talent not often seen put together all at the same time on a CFL roster.

Dyakowski puts smarts to test on Jeopardy

Named Canada’s Smartest Person in 2012 after winning the show of the same name on CBC in 2012, Peter Dyakowski put his smarts to another test on Jeopardy Tuesday night.

Dyakowski was at Ticats practice on Tuesday morning, flew to Los Angeles, California in time for his scheduled appearance that night on Jeopardy and made it back to Hamilton on Wednesday morning to carry on his rehab at training camp with his teammates. Or so the magic of television would make it appear.

On Tuesday everyone was able to witness Dyakowski’s appearance on the quiz show. When he arrived for taping all of the contestants were able to play a warm-up run of Jeopardy to prepare for the real game.

“I started out not nervous at all,” Dyakowski explained. “By the end of the warm-up everyone has played a full game. I felt great, I was clicking, hitting the buzzer, I was getting in on all the questions – I felt great. I thought I’m about to win Jeopardy. I’ve never been so colossally overconfident in my entire life.”

 When the lights turned on and cameras started rolling Dyakowski began to feel the nerves.

“We get out there and I don’t know if it was just the change of mindset, Alex Trebek or just because it was for real, but I tightened right up. I was awful on my clicker,” he said. “I was up against good competition. I couldn’t have played a worse game and up against people like that I had to play a perfect game, and I didn’t.”

The hulking offensive lineman finished in third place.

“I tightened right up and as soon as I got locked out of some categories, rather than just calming down, finding a new centre and relaxing – like I would in a football game if I had a bad play – I wound up into a panic,” Dyakowski said. “Stuff that I knew I knew didn’t even come to me. So I was flailing. I had a chance to come back in Double Jeopardy, but I still wasn’t hitting my stride. Final Jeopardy was tough for me as well.”

Dyakowski felt the need to apologize to the people he said he let down.

“I would like to take the opportunity to apologize to the people of Hamilton, Tiger-Cats fans everywhere, all Canadians, all football players and everyone who I represented, everyone I may have offended with my performance, I’m sorry.”

Despite not performing to his own high level of expectations, Dyakowski still thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity. And he even found out the show’s host who hails from north of the border is a Ticats fan.

“It was a really cool experience. I got to go to Hollywood and be on a big time TV show. There was Alex Trebek, a Canadian treasure, a living legend in the flesh,” he said. “He grew up and still is a Ticats fan which was really cool.”