Hammer Time for Ticats

With the addition of Renauld Williams (No. 9) from Calgary, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats believe they...

With the addition of Renauld Williams (No. 9) from Calgary, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats believe they could have the best linebacker core in the league. (MIKE HARDILL/Ticats.ca)

MIKE THOMAS, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:35 PM ET

HAMILTON - With Renauld Williams in the fold as Hamilton’s newest linebacker, the Tiger-Cats will enter the 2011 season excited to put pressure on the CFL’s top offences.

“I think we’ve got a pretty strong core of linebackers,” Williams said. “We’re all hungry and we’re all angry. Right now I don’t see anybody better than us in the CFL.”

Williams signed in Hamilton as a free agent this off-season after playing in Calgary. He joins Jamall Johnson and the league’s reigning top defensive player, Markeith Knowlton, as the projected linebackers for the Ticats entering the season.

Williams hasn’t missed a beat in camp so far and his teammates enjoy the opportunity to work with him. Knowlton, Johnson and Williams feel comfortable together after the first few days of camp as well as other training activities before the pre-season officially began.

“He’s a great addition and he fits in well with us,” Johnson said. “He communicates well, he hits hard and he’s disciplined.”

Johnson added that getting used to playing with Williams has been easy for the team.

With a starting spot in the lineup nearly a guarantee, the toughest challenge for Williams will be filling the shoes of Otis Floyd, who the team parted ways with in the off-season.

Floyd was not only a big contributor on field, but was a leader on defence and a fan favourite in Hamilton.

Williams knows what Floyd meant to the team, but is confident he can move into his position and help make the team better.

“It’s a rough position to be in but it’s part of the game,” said Williams, who appreciates what his predecessor has done. “I always liked watching Otis play. I always thought he was a really good linebacker.”

Tiger-Cats management brought Williams to the team excited about his physical and aggressive style of play. They realize they can’t replace Floyd, but look forward moving on and watching Williams develop as a dynamic linebacker in the CFL.

A major challenge for the whole group is adjusting to a new defensive philosophy brought in by their new boss.

Defensive coordinator Corey Chamblin wants his group to be more aggressive, forcing other teams to make mistakes. This is a system his linebackers are eager to put into action.

“People have embraced it,” Johnson said. “It feels good to us and we’ve just got to work hard everyday to make everything feel second nature to us.”

For Chamblin, getting the team used to the new style of play is something that takes time but he’s happy with what he has seen so far.

“I think they’ve got a bit of blisters on their feet but the guys did a good job at pushing through,” Chamblin said.

With such a solid group of veteran linebackers on the team, it’s going to be hard for any rookies to make an impression at the position. Only four linebackers took part in rookie camp, all of which have a very long road ahead in terms of breaking camp with a starting spot. The veteran linebackers want to make sure no one takes over their roles.

“I’m going to make it as hard as possible for them to do that,” Johnson said. “I like my job and I like these fans. I’m sure the other guys would say the same.”

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the Hamilton linebackers around camp at McMaster University’s Ron Joyce Field. The experience and skill of the players at the position suggest this group could be better than that of any other CFL team. However, Chamblin said that consistency is what his defence needs in order to excel.

“I would say they’re in the top eight in this league,” Chamblin joked, adding: “Any given game they can be the number one core but sometimes in this league you can play like you’re the eighth best. You just have to be consistent.”

Kelly coming on strong

Rookie wide receiver Aaron Kelly continues to impress as training camp goes on.

The 25-year-old import out of Clemson came up with a number of plays Monday that turned the heads of several of his teammates and many Tiger-Cats fans that showed up to watch the club prepare.

Kelly is using his size and skill to contend for a position that’s already loaded with talent for Hamilton.

If he keeps up this level of play, he could break camp with the club. But the youngster would still face tough competition for playingtime with names like Arland Bruce III and Maurice Mann being proven targets for quarterback Kevin Glenn.


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