Stamps welcome bye week

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

Tom Higgins has a shiny new horse and nowhere to race it.

But instead of worrying about breaking camp into a bye week, the Calgary Stampeders head coach is using the extra time work his new group into game condition.

With a split in the pre-season despite uneven offensive performances, Higgins isn't sitting his charges down this week but rather running through a regular-game prep while the other CFL teams square off.

A bye off the hop could be seen as a negative but Higgins doesn't look at it that way.

"The positive is we have a brand new coaching staff on offence and new players," Higgins said. "If we had a veteran group, I would be sick to think we had all this pressure to build them all up to sit them down. We don't have any pressure on us. We will continue to polish."

An off-season of change has brought optimism to Calgary for the Stampeders.

New faces such as Henry Burris and Jeremaine Copeland have changed the identity of the team.

Many local football fans can't wait to see the revamped roster compete in games that count. Higgins feels the same way but he has a pretty good idea of his team's strengths and weaknesses.

In the exhibition games against Saskatchewan and at B.C., Burris and the starting offence struggled at times.

So Higgins welcomes some extra practices to put his quarterback on the same page as the receivers.

"It's a new team, we just put it together," Higgins said. "We're still learning the offensive system but we're right on course where we want to be."

When training camp started, several problems faced Higgins about his 2005 Stamps.

Now that camp has broke, he's confident he has the answers.

Jason Gesser has shown positive signs in limited action as the backup quarterback.

Sandro DeAngelis and Burke Dales have looked strong as the new kicking tandem. And five import starters in the secondary show promise but still need some game action.

"The biggest questions that were out there were: Who's the backup quarterback? How's our kicking? Our secondary?" Higgins said.

"But our punter and placekicker are riding an emotional high and we felt we've upgraded it there. Our secondary, we think we've put together quite a nice unit.

"Now it's just a matter of letting them play."

When it comes to describing just what the Stamps' identity is, again we'll need more time.

Higgins is sure of one thing ...

"I would like to say this is our team," he said. "We put this thing together, GM Jim Barker, the coaching staff and myself.

"And we're pretty proud of the selections we made."


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