Stala one of many Ticat weapons
By BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency
|Hamilton Tiger-Cats Dave Stala runs in for a touchdown during the first half of their CFL football game against the Calgary Stampeders in Calgary, Alberta, October 29, 2010. (REUTERS/Todd Korol)
TORONTO - The good news for Dave Stala is that the Hamilton Ticats’ receiving corps is getting better.
The bad news for Stala is that the Ticats’ receiving corps is getting, well ... ah, better.
The nine-year veteran is living in a conundrum. But if it ends up with him lining up to play for the Grey Cup it will be a conundrum with a happy ending.
Stala had a 1,000-yard season in 2010. But this season, on a roster that includes Mo Mann, Arland Bruce, an all-purpose back in Avon Cobourne who can catch the ball, and the break-out rookie Chris Williams, there have been a few less balls coming in Stala’s direction.
“It is difficult. Guys always lobby for (more playing time) but the coaches make the final decision. There’s always questions in a receiver’s mind but if you don’t want the football you shouldn’t be a receiver, first and foremost,” Stala said Wednesday, as the Ticats prepare for Friday’s collision with the Montreal Alouettes.
Mann was the club’s leading receiver through the first two weeks. When he went down to injury, Williams flashed to prominence with three TDs the past two games, including 189 yards last week on eight catches.
And, Bruce hasn’t hardly warmed up yet. Then there are youngsters Bakari Grant (who some around The Hammer believe can clone those Williams’ numbers someday soon) and Matt Carter — all of whom combined to give quarterback Kevin Glenn seven different players who caught passes last week.
“There’s some packages that they’re taking me out on, and I understand that,” said Stala, who spent six seasons in Montreal before joining Hamilton in 2009. “Every week I come in (to practices) and try to get back in those packages. I want to be on the field the whole game. I don’t want to be on the bench. I don’t think I’m going to help you on the bench; I think I’m going to help you on the field.”
While the numbers don’t show that the Ticats’ receiving corps has reached elite status yet, there are a few hints it has a chance to become special. While they’re middle of the pack in total receiving yards, only Montreal and Edmonton have scored more touchdown passes.
“I played with Ben Cahoon. I was in Montreal with Jeremaine Copeland and they were a good core,” said Stala, “but there’s nothing like this group. They’re special.”
So special that Marquay McDaniels, a 1,000-yard receiver last year, hasn’t been able to crack the lineup. One reason is that if not for a case of the dropsies he might’ve been a 2,000-yard receiver. Or something.
But when a 1,000-yard pass-catcher isn’t starting, it does suggest that there is at least the seed of something very interesting germinating here. So, said Stala, it’s all good. “I’ve played with great players ... this team might be the deepest. I was surprised by Marquay (who has started just one game) being the odd man out. We’re deep. When Mo (cut his foot), Williams stepped in; when Arland went down, Marquay stepped in.”
While Glenn has had his share of critics, he still ranks third in quarterback efficiency among CFL quarterbacks.
“We got a great leader in Kevin, there’s a lot of trust in him,” said Stala. “You got Arland, who’s been in this league for 10 years with 10,000 yards or whatever. Myself for eight or nine years. Chris came out of somewhere I don’t know. When he plays like that it makes it easier for all of us. If he keeps attracting defences by doing stuff like that,” Stala, said laughing, “I should get a few more balls.”
With wins over suspect outfits from B.C. and Saskatchewan, the Ticats get a better litmus test of where they stand in the CFL pecking order Friday when they meet the defending Grey Cup champions. For the Ticats it is a chance to prove they are the best, by beating the best. “We know they’re going to score,” said Stala. “I look at it like we have to put up at least 25 to 30 points to win this game.”