Stamps shuffle up defence

The Stampeders took on the stairs Thursday during training camp.

The Stampeders took on the stairs Thursday during training camp.

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:57 PM ET

CALGARY - When Geoff Tisdale signed with the Calgary Stampeders, he was thought to be an immediate replacement for the lost corners.

But during training camp, the former Hamilton Tiger-Cat isn’t playing much at cornerback.

The Stampeders defence is a fluid part of the team, as players are expected to know several positions besides their own.

Right now, Tisdale is getting plenty of time at the halfback spot, while Milt Collins is manning the cornerback slot where Brandon Browner used to play.

Tisdale doesn’t mind.

As a newcomer, he’s getting used to the new system and actually being put in a spot he enjoys.

“I get asked that a lot,” Tisdale said about his favourite place to be. “I like the weak half. I don’t know what it is about it.”

Last season, Collins was the starting halfback after two seasons at safety, but even then he started camp as a linebacker.

To start this season, he was supposed to be moving back to safety where his big-hit ability would be best utilized, but now he’s on the corner where Browner used to be.

“There is no other BB,” said Collins of the departed Browner. “I’m my own man. All of us as a team have to work to replace Brandon, because it’s a big loss to our team. We will get out there trying to fill big shoes.

“If I get thrown into the fire, I have to protect myself. Those are big shoes to fill, but I will be ready for the first game.”

Halfback is one of the toughest spots on the field, and usually, when a team finds someone who can man the position, they stick for a long time.

Brandon Smith falls into that category, as the Oakland native is entering his fourth season with the team. He came back strong last season after missing all of 2009 with a knee injury.

Keon Raymond is now working at halfback after spending last season as the coverage linebacker and the previous season at corner and safety.

“People forget that me, Smitty and Keon have been here since 2008, so we’ve been getting better and better,” Collins said.

Tisdale enjoys the challenge of the spot, as the defender is at a disadvantage with the receiver being in motion. Usually CFL teams put their best players in the slot, so it’s not a glamour position.

“If you want to prove you are the best, you need to face the best,” Tisdale said. “Just like out here, I try to face the best receivers.

“After practice, I ask for some one-on-ones. I’m looking for the fast, tall ones because that’s what I will see in the slot. I’m trying to work on what I’m going to see during the season.”

Give the Stamps credit for keeping athletes around even if they aren’t in the spot they are most comfortable.

Last year, Juwan Simpson was finally slotted at middle linebacker, and he broke out in his third CFL season.

Suddenly, the Alabama product was the defensive leader, and he was named the West Division’s most outstanding defensive player. He sees the shuffling as a necessary part of camp.

“It lets the guy know we’re still working it out,” Simpson said. “In camp and even through the pre-season games, there will be competition.

“If you ask the vets, they will tell you that no job is locked in. It’s fun because they learn different positions. This game is all about what you know.

“The more positions you know, the more coaches love you. They don’t have any problem switching around because it makes us better in the future.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ianbusby57


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