April 21, 2023

Top of the Depth Chart: Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Thomas Skrlj/CFL.ca

The winds of change blew through the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this off-season, and some of those changes make it super-easy to predict an opening night depth chart. Some, do not.

There are question marks at a number of positions on this team. Some of that has to do with the puzzle of “who’s next?” in, say, the secondary. You’ll see that I take a flight of fancy at one of those positions. More question marks pop up – but in a good way – due to the ‘Cats great depth of talent and ratio flexibility on the defensive line.

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Let’s take a swing at how they might line up for their opener, June 9, in Winnipeg. If I nail all these, you know where to find me. If I pooch it, well… “sorry, new phone, who dis?”


Receiver Running Back Quarterback Fullback Offensive Line
Duke Williams James Butler Bo Levi Mitchell Felix Garand-Gauthier* Joel Figueroa (LT)
Tim White Brandon Revenberg* (LG)
Kiondre Smith* David Beard* (C)
Bralon Addison Coulter Woodmansey* (RG)
Chris Van Zeyl* (RT)

* denotes National
** denotes Global


Bo Levi Mitchell. Well, duh. Will this be a renaissance season for the two-time MOP? I believe it will.


Easy peasy. The Ticats landed one of the CFL’s best all-round running backs in free agency. James Butler runs hard, he turns short passes into YAC-positive gold and he picks up blitzes oh so well.


Not in a position to declare anyone other than Felix Garand-Gauthier at the top of the heap, at least for starters. But the ‘Cats have good depth here and sorting things like that out is what training camps are for.


Duke Williams is now a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats after signing with the team in free agency earlier this year (Matt Smith/CFL.ca)

A good looking group with veteran smarts and athletic ability galore, especially if Bralon Addison comes off major injury and is still all Bralon Addison-ey. There’s some speculation he may not be able to play right away out of camp, we’ll see about that. Duke Williams is in need of a re-start and will be motivated. Gotta like a motivated Duke. In Tim White the Ticats merely have one of the CFL’s most dominating game-breakers. And it is go time for young Kiondre Smith, who showed plenty of promise in 2022. Wanna go five-pack for starters? Second-year man Anthony Johnson fits the bill.


Joel Figueroa at left tackle seems a lock. Same for Brandon Revenberg at left guard and David Beard at centre, with Coulter Woodmansey starting at right guard after appearing in 15 games in 2022, his sophomore season. Until 39-year-old Chris Van Zeyl shows me he’s not up to it anymore, he gets the benefit of the doubt at right tackle. But let’s keep an eye on second-year man Kyle Saxelid here. All six-foot-eight, 320 pounds of him.


Defensive Back Linebacker Defensive Line
Will Sunderland (CB) Simoni Lawrence (WLB) Kwaku Boateng * (DE)
Javien Elliott (HB) Jameer Thurman (MLB) Casey Sayles (DT)
Tunde Adeleke* (S) Chris Edwards (SAM) Dylan Wynn (DT)
Richard Leonard (HB) Ja’Gared Davis (DE)
Lawrence Woods III (CB)


The Ticats have all kinds of depth and flexibility on the D-Line. They’ve got rotational Canadian depth at defensive end, led by free agent signing Kwaku Boateng – backed by third-year man Mason Bennett (27 tackles, 5 sacks last year) – but they also have two American pocket crushers in Ja’Gared Davis and Malik Carney. And they’ve got ratio flexibility at tackle, too, re-signing the ever-present Ted Laurent. The Ticats lost defensive tackle Micah Johnson in free agency but they filled that void beautifully in signing former Blue Bomber Casey Sayles, who can slide in next to veteran Dylan Wynn. The depth chart of starters I’ve selected is merely one way they could go at kick-off.


Jameer Thurman joins the Ticats after spending his entire CFL career (2017, 2018, 2021, 2022) with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Stampeders.com)

I’m leaning towards Simoni Lawrence keeping his starting job on the weak side, out of camp, buuuut he will be pushed and pushed hard by Kyle Wilson. Primo free agent pick-up Jameer Thurman, of course, is the middle linebacker and the new SAM is Chris Edwards, and ain’t that interesting, considering how despised he was by Ticats fans when he was an Argonaut. Imagine a linebacking corps with two of the more well-known CFL agitators putting opponents on blast at the same time. Good luck in finding a quiet moment to yourself, Mr. Thurman.


In the middle of it all, Canadian safety Tunde Adeleke is a constant, as is the still somehow underrated Richard Leonard. Hamilton’s pass defence undergoes some big change, with star corners Jumal Rolle and Ciante Evans heading to Montreal in free agency. And Cariel Brooks is now in Ottawa, although it was the ‘Cats who parted company with him, not the other way around. Brooks’ old halfback spot seems destined to go to Javien Elliott, the 29-year-old NFL vet who appeared in four regular season games for Calgary last season. What about the vacancies at corner? Will Sunderland played one game there late last season as a rookie and I’ll look to him to step up into a starter’s role. The other side? Let me go wishing here. I’d love to see Lawrence Woods III get a shot at pulling a Frankie Williams, starting on the defence AND continuing to blow up opponents with his devastating return game.


Kicker/Punter Long Snapper Returner
Seth Small/Blake Hayes** Gordon Whyte* Lawrence Woods III


Seth Small is the incumbent and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be hoofing field goals again for the Tabbies after an exceptional rookie
campaign in 2022. Michael Domagala left for Edmonton in the off-season, and the ‘Cats already had a replacement in their midst with 2022 Global draft pick Blake Hayes.

All set with Gordon Whyte at long snapper, back for season three.


Lawrence Woods III had over 800 punt return yards last season (averaging 13 per) and nearly a thousand yards in kick-off returns, one of them for a major. If he plays defence, too, the Ticats can give him some return relief with Papi White.

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