Ticats have their ducks in order

MIKE THOMAS, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:29 AM ET

TORONTO - Now that it’s confirmed the Tiger-Cats will be Eating ‘Em Raw in Hamilton for years to come, focus shifts to the field and whether or not the club can bounce back from a disappointing 2010 campaign.

A year ago, rumours swirled about the future of the franchise, beginning with a debate on where the team’s new stadium would be built. As the team and the city couldn’t agree on a location, whispers grew that the Ticats would eventually end up in Quebec City, Burlington or Milton among other cities.

“Optimism reigns in Hamilton these days,” Tiger-Cats president Scott Mitchell said during a conference call with CFL media members on Wednesday.

Mitchell said the new stadium would be ready for play in 2014 and the team will spend the next two seasons at Ivor Wynne. Where the Ticats play in 2013 is still up in the air.

With a deal in place to build the new stadium at the current location of Ivor Wynne Stadium, the Tiger-Cats can now focus on the 2011 season.

After finishing 2010 with a 9-9 record and losing to the Argonauts in the first round of the playoffs, the Tiger-Cats aim to evolve into the Grey Cup contenders they hoped to be last season.

A 50% increase in season ticket sales has the Tiger-Cats pumped, too.

“I’m more excited about this season than any of the seasons since I’ve been here,” said Ticats general manager Bob O’Billovich, who enters his fourth season with the team.

Kevin Glenn returns to the Hamilton gridiron as the No. 1 quarterback after finishing second in the league in both touchdowns and passing yards in 2010. Backing up Glenn will be third-year pivot Quinton Porter who has yet to make a real impact on a CFL field.

Much of Hamilton’s optimism has to do with a number of changes O’Billovich has made since last season came to an early end.

The Tiger-Cats shook things up some more on Tuesday when they released veteran kicker, Sandro DeAngelis, who disappointed in his first season in the Hammer, putting up a .762 field goal percentage, the worst of his career.

The biggest change on offence comes in the signing of free agent running back Avon Cobourne. Entering his sixth CFL season, Cobourne was an important part in each of the Montreal Allouettes past two Grey Cup wins, being named the game’s MVP in 2009.

The Tiger-Cats will not only look for Cobourne to contribute to the offence but also be a vocal leader.

Another change comes on defence with the departure of veteran linebacker Otis Floyd and the arrival of Renauld Williams, formerly of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Williams spent 2010 as a practice squad member of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and returns to the CFL for the first time since 2009 when he registered 56 tackles and three sacks.

While it was tough for the Tiger-Cats to let Floyd go, the team believes Williams is reminiscent of a younger Otis Floyd.

Along with several changes on the field, the team also welcomes Corey Chamblin who takes over as defensive coordinator and has promoted Khari Jones to offensive coordinator.

For the past two seasons Jones has served as Hamilton’s quarterback coach, while Chamblin worked in Saskatchewan coaching defensive backs for the Roughriders.

Something the Ticats look to see out of Chamblin is a more aggressive approach on defence, attempting to force mistakes from the opposing team.

The Tiger-Cats play their first preseason game against the Argonauts on June 18 in Toronto and play host to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers when they open the regular season on Canada Day.


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