Ticats hope they've turned a corner with Burris

With the beginning of training camp just around the corner, Henry Burris will be given every...

With the beginning of training camp just around the corner, Henry Burris will be given every opportunity to lead the Ticats offence this season. (QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:37 PM ET

With the start of training camp just around the corner, the player most believe has the potential to help the Hamilton Ticats franchise turn the corner will be given every opportunity to learn the team’s new offensive system.

For Henry Burris, there will be no reason to look over his shoulder, a luxury that eluded Kevin Glenn, when the chains aren’t being moved or when not enough points are being scored.

Unless he turns into a complete bust, Burris is expected to take every first-team snap when Hamilton’s main camp opens this weekend and likely play significant minutes in the team’s two pre-season games.

As if anyone ever doubted the Ticats’ direction at the all-important quarterback position, head coach George Cortez, a breath of fresh air who does not mince words, made certain everyone understood the team’s philosophy when asked during Monday’s conference call with reporters.

“It’s either Henry Burris or Aaron Rodgers,’’ deadpanned Cortez, a coaching veteran on both sides of the border who is making his debut as head coach.

Quinton Porter, unless he shows signs of regressing under a new system, has the experience to serve as Burris’ backup, a role Porter must grudgingly accept.

No one knows how training camp and how the exhibition season will play themselves out, but what’s known is that Burris will be given every shot to be the guy who lines up under centre.

With so much that has been gained in Tiger Town off the field, the coming season looms as one of the most important times in the recent history of this storied franchise.

Everything from corporate sponsorships to merchandise to season tickets have increased as the team bids adieu to iconic Ivor Wynne Stadium.

As team president Scott Mitchell so succinctly summed up on Monday: “We’re ready to make that next step from good to great.”

For the past three years, the Ticats became relevant, but could not get over the hump, last season’s post-season experience neatly encapsulated the team’s mercurial nature, one week looking like an offensive juggernaut in beating the host Als, the next week playing with so little mental toughness in losing to host Winnipeg in the East final.

Cortez will be under the microscope, but no player will feel the wrath of Hamilton’s demanding fans more than Burris.

It’s his right not to share information with the media, but Cortez did acknowledge he huddled with his staff on Monday to map a plan on how best to get reps to Burris and the rest of the team’s quarterbacks.

By as early as Wednesday, the Ticats are expected to announce the signing of another quarterback, which will give the team five, four of whom will be at the team’s main camp.

Tate Forcier and Sedrick Harris, whose signings the team has already confirmed, will be given every chance to impress Cortez and his staff.

Whether one comes from a big-time program such as Michigan, where Forcier started as a freshman, or some small college such as East Texas Baptist, where Harris became the first player in his conference to produce 1,000 passing and rushing yards in the same season, making the transition to three-down football and the larger field is no easy task.

“They both have above-average arms,’’ Cortez, who served as quarterbacks coach for the Buffalo Bills the last two seasons, said of Forcier and Harris. “They’ll show us what they can do later in the week.”

Outside of Burris starting at quarterback and Andy Fantuz serving as the go-to receiver, there aren’t many guarantees in the Hammer, where Cortez is open to anything.

He’s seen Sam Giguere on film making catches and returning kickoffs, but until Giguere arrives in camp Cortez can’t say with certainty whether this one-time NFLer is best suited to line up at wideout or inside at the slot.

With line play so important at any level of football, the Ticats would like to have veteran centre Marwan Hage back in the fold following last year’s season-ending knee surgery.

“I’m not a doctor,’’ Cortez said when asked if Hage will be ready for the start of camp.

“It’s a long rehab period and it’s ongoing. We’ll cross that bridge as to when he can play when we get there.”

Wherever the Ticats ultimately end up, a lot will be based on how well Burris plays.

In a quarterback league such as the CFL, there can’t be any other way.

New role for Ozzie

No one is as familiar with the fickle wind at Ivor Wynne Stadium than Paul Osbaldiston.

No player embraced the Hammer and its football culture as passionately as Osbaldiston, who has gone from a kicking consultant to a special teams assistant, a move head coach George Cortez announced during a Monday conference call with reporters.

Whether Osbaldiston uses the experience to become a full-time coach at some point, only time will tell.

For now, his addition is quite fitting seeing that Ivor Wynne Stadium will be torn down following this season.

“He’ll be more involved in the special teams aspect,’’ Cortez said of Osbaldiston, a Ticat great and a two-time Grey Cup champion.

Cortez said he recently sat down with Osbaldiston when the opportunity to join Cortez’s staff was broached.

Besides dealing with the team’s punters and kickers, Osbaldiston will have get to exposed to the day-to-day coaching routine of film viewing, game planning and player evaluation.

Like any incoming head coach, one of Cortez’s first priorities was to assemble his staff.

Osbaldiston provides a connection to the Ticats and their community, while new special teams coach Jim Daley gives Cortez a sounding board seeing how Daley served as a CFL head coach.

 


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