Ticats ready to pounce

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

They were last in the Canadian Football League a year ago, but hopes are high for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

An overhauling of the roster, headed by the off-season acquisition of Jason Maas from the Edmonton Eskimos, and a new offensive co-ordinator in Joe Paopao, former coach of the now-defunct Ottawa Renegades, the Ticats are a vastly different group from a year ago.

"The team is focused and the energy really is high and we'll definitely be ready for (the season opener tomorrow at the Rogers Centre)," Hamilton general manager Rob Katz said yesterday.

"We're at a point where everyone here believes we've got a good, solid competitive team. We match up pretty good," coach Greg Marshall said. "You look down and you compare our players against players on other teams and I think we match up pretty well. If we needed to start 10, 11, 12 Canadians we can. There are other teams that have pretty good strong Canadian depth, but I'd put our Canadians up against anybody in the league."

Hamilton registered back-to-back pre-season wins against the Argos and clearly made a statement it will not be a pushover.

"The biggest thing about the pre-season is it let our guys go out there and get acquainted with each other more than just a scrimmage or practice," Katz said. "At some point you've got to hit someone with a different-coloured jersey. The pre-season games were good for that and gave our guys confidence not just in winning games but building trust in one another. But I don't think anyone here is doing any parades because we went undefeated."

In Maas, Hamilton has a gritty, 30-year-old quarterback who threw for more than 5,000 yards two seasons ago and played a big role in relief of starter Ricky Ray last year in the playoffs.

"You know what he has is a great work ethic," Marshall said. "On top of his physical abilities, he trains unbelievably. He's very fit. He studies film. He's in here every morning at 7. He has that type of work ethic and it's contagious amongst the team."

Other notable acquisitions, either through trades, free agency or the Renegades dispersal draft include: Running back Josh Ranek, versatile offensive lineman George Hudson, running back/slotback Corey Holmes, slotback Terry Vaughn (acquired via trade from Montreal), linebackers JoJuan Armour and Ray Mariuz and punter Pat Fleming.

The new linebackers will complement third-year man Agustin Barrenechea.

Holmes gives the Tiger-Cats a proven returner.

"We haven't set any goals," Katz said. "We want to put a team on the field that can compete and work toward championships."


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