Ticats need team building

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

The list of free-agent signings and trade acquisitions is impressive.

However, the big question for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats going into the 2006 CFL season is: Can they put it all together on the field and contend in the East Division?

Trading for a bona fide starting quarterback in Jason Maas and a premier returner/running back in Corey Holmes is enough to classify Hamilton's off-season as a success.

Toss in the acquisitions of running back Josh Ranek, offensive lineman George Hudson and slotback Terry Vaughn, and it's almost party time in Steeltown after a dismal 5-13 campaign in 2005.

However, head coach Greg Marshall knows a lot of team building must take place in the next month, or their off-season accomplishments could go up in smoke.

"That's going to be a big challenge," Marshall said yesterday during the team's annual conference call with national media. "We have new coaches. We have new players.

"In a very short period of time, around a month, we have to bring that group together and have them play well as a team."

General manager Rob Katz is happy to see that the newcomers are doing all they can to get a leg up.

"A majority of our new players already know each other, or they already know several of their teammates," said Katz. "They've been in town and working out together on their own and starting to build that bond.

"... With the character of the guys that we brought in, we think that that'll be a smoother transition than it would otherwise."

Leading the group bonding charge has been Maas, who was acquired from Edmonton less than a week after the Eskimos won the Grey Cup.

He asked for all his offensive teammates' phone numbers shortly after the trade, and he's been in Hamilton for the past month getting ready.

"He sets a really good standard for the rest of the guys to follow," said Marshall.

The Tabbies believe they have solved their punt return woes with the addition of Holmes, who was the West Division's outstanding player in 2005 as a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

"Those are the types of players that you can build great teams around," said Marshall.

In addition, Ranek is a proven CFL tailback, Vaughn is riding an 11-year streak of 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and new offensive co-ordinator Joe Paopao certainly is no slouch.

Their defensive line remains solid, but their linebacking corps and secondary are the biggest question marks on a team that surrendered the most points in 2005.

Off the field, the fans continue to support billionaire owner Bob Young's squad. Corporate sponsorships are up, and season ticket sales will end up between 17,000 and 18,000.

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HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

- 2005 record: 5-13 (fourth in East Division)

- COO/GM: Rob Katz

- Coach: Greg Marshall

- Key additions: QB Jason Maas (Edmonton), RB Josh Ranek (Ottawa), OL George Hudson (Ottawa), SB Terry Vaughn (Montreal), RB-KR Corey Holmes (Saskatchewan), P Pat Fleming (Ottawa), S Scott Gordon (Saskatchewan), offensive co-ordinator/assistant coach Joe Paopao (Ottawa).

- Key departures: QB Danny McManus (Calgary), OL Tim Bakker (Edmonton), RB Jesse Lumsden (NFL, Washington), SB Archie Amerson (released), OL Jon'ta Woodard (NFL, Washington), QB Marcus Brady (Montreal).

- Key returnees: SB Mike Morreale, DE Tim Cheatwood, SB Craig Yeast, DT Adriano Belli, OL Wayne Smith, WR Brock Ralph, WR D.J. Flick, LB Agustin Barrenechea, S Wayne Shaw, DB Jason Goss.

- Draft pick to watch: DE Shawn Mayne.


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