The Edmonton Eskimos top defender may have found a new home on the field.
Linebacker T.J. Hill, who earned the team’s nomination for Most Outstanding Defensive Player last year, was moved to free safety for Day 1 of training camp Sunday at Clarke Park.
“We worked T.J. at free safety (Sunday),” said head coach Kavis Reed. “Help the position, help with leadership so that his voice is heard.”
Hill is well versed in letting his actions do the talking, leading the Eskimos with 91 tackles, while adding three sacks, three tackles for a loss, two knockdowns, three interceptions — returning one for a touchdown — a forced fumble and a pair of fumble recoveries in 2010.
Since joining the CFL in 2007 with the Montreal Alouettes, Hill hasn’t finished lower than tied for first in tackles on his team.
But his new coaches expect him to lead more than just the stats sheet.
“We have quite a few new guys and actually being back there, being the safety in coach (Rich) Stubler’s system, the safety is pretty much the quarterback of the defence,” Hill said. “So I’ve definitely got to step up my role, not just vocally. On the field, off the field, in the meeting room and everywhere I can.”
After all, he has become the Eskimos last line of defence.
“If anything gets past me, you know the result,” Hill said. “That’s it, it’s a touchdown. I’m not saying the job is hard or there’s more pressure. Now I’ve got to secure a little more.”
But it’s not exactly unexplored territory for Hill.
“Technically, I am a true safety, so it’s not a big transition to me,” said the five-foot-nine, 195-pounder out of Northeastern. “As long as I’m out there contributing and putting the team in good situations directing the defence and we get the ‘W’ at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.”
Besides, Hill says it’s never been about him, just his role on the team.
“It’s changed, but it’s all for the team,” said Hill. “Whatever they need me to do to contribute to this team, I’m all for it.”
sharun shifting: Moving from safety to linebacker isn’t the worst thing to happen to Corbin Sharun.
Worse would have been moving off the roster like the rest of the Edmonton Eskimos who were slated at safety last season.
Instead, the local product earned a chance to compete at a new position as training camp opened Sunday at Clarke Park.
“They’ve got me playing a little bit of linebacker, which I’m fine with,” said Sharun, who was drafted in the sixth round last year and played junior with the Edmonton Wildcats. “Whatever I can do to help the team is the biggest thing.”
Sharun was a quarterback in the CIS before moving to safety in junior, but played both in high school with the Strathcona Lords. So the move to linebacker isn’t that much of a stretch for the five-foot-11, 214-pounder.
“It’s just another position I can play and the more I can do the more I can help the team,” said Sharun, who earned his ticket into training camp by leading the Eskimos with 15 special teams tackles as a rookie, while also blocking a punt that led to a touchdown.
On Sunday, he was practising some long-snapping.
“I’m working on it, so hopefully I can help the team in that aspect too,” said Sharun, who sees special teams as a door to open his career. “It’s one-third of the game, so if I can benefit the team on special teams, that’s my job. That’s what I do.”
As long as they will let him.
“I’m not a rookie, but it’s still a new coaching staff you’ve got to impress, and a new GM, everything like that,” Sharun said. “You’re at the bottom of the barrel again, like a rookie, so you’ve got to work your way and show everybody that you can play.
“I’m going to prove to these coaches they didn’t make a mistake and just show them I can play football in any position they put me in.”
PASS, PUNT, KICK: And then there was one. The Eskimos are looking to bring in more kickers to camp to accompany Derek Schiavone’s lone leg, despite having had four on the roster a week before training camp.
They will also bring in another quarterback to take the place of Cody Kirby, who failed his medicals Saturday.
“We’ve got to look at the dynamics of who is one step away from starting quarterback,” said Reed. “We’re looking at some veteran guys, but we’re also looking at some young guys because those guys are a play or two away from being the guy that (determines whether) my wife gets to go shopping or not go shopping.”
CAMP OUT: Non-import defensive tackle Dee Sterling is knee deep in rehabbing from injury.
“We’re really going to look at possibly holding him out of training camp simply because of the ACL,” Reed said of the non-import, who underwent surgery after injuring his knee in practice last season. “Post-op, he’s not at the point in terms of time where we feel that we can really tax that knee. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see Dee Sterling in training camp.”