Ticats have a back-up plan

Ticats back-up QB Quinton Porter is learning the ropes under new Hamilton coach George Cortez....

Ticats back-up QB Quinton Porter is learning the ropes under new Hamilton coach George Cortez. (Reuters)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:06 PM ET

HAMILTON — For Quinton Porter, it’s back to school, back to the basics of understanding the nuances of a new offence and back to his role as a backup.

Given the nature of pro football, where any bench player is basically one play from entering the field, Porter has to prepare as if he’s the guy lining up under centre and not Henry Burris.

Much like the quarterback picture in Toronto, there will be no questions asked when the CFL’s regular season begins, assuming Burris and Ricky Ray, the Argos’ newest starter, remain healthy.

In Porter’s case, the big question is how long it will take for this veteran signal caller to feel comfortable with George Cortez’s system.

Burris has the leg up on the learning curve, having been exposed to Cortez’s philosophy and methodology when the two played in Calgary.

Whether it was the Argos in acquiring Ray from Edmonton or the Ticats’ decision to make a play for Burris this off-season, the quarterback position hasn’t looked this promising in the southern Ontario market in years.

The proof will arrive when Burris and Ray are leading their respective teams in meaningful games.

But to understate the value of a backup, be it Porter or Jarious Jackson in Argoland, would be both foolish and wrong.

Each has shown an ability to lead an offence in relief, each capable of making plays, each in the same boat, as the quarterback line has clearly been drawn in the sand.

As rookie camp makes way for the main training camp, Porter continues to get a better handle on the Cortez offence, which presents its own set of challenges and modifications for the newbie.

Take away his days on the high-school stage and Porter figures he’s been exposed to three offences, including the Cortez system.

In college, Porter’s Boston College Eagles ran what is known as the West Coast offence, made popular by Bill Walsh and Joe Montana when the head coach and quarterback were the key cogs in San Francisco’s glory years.

When he attempted to latch on to the NFL, Porter’s transition, at least from a schematic perspective, was seamless because the West Coast offence was in such vogue that virtually every team would run it in some form.

When he came north, Porter was introduced to a new system.

And now comes the George Cortez offence.

“I’m just now at the point where I understand conceptually and remember all the names,’’ Porter said on Friday at McMaster University, where the Ticats are conducting their on-field sessions.

“I’m nowhere near ready to have happen on the field at full speed. That’s what camp is for. I’m basically in the playbook, a lot like taking a class.”

In this Football 101 course, plenty of study time and attention to detail are required.

When reacting replaces thinking, then any player, let alone a smart and savvy quarterback such as Porter, reaches his comfort level.

But Porter isn’t in his comfort zone, not when there’s so much that needs to be understood and ironed out.

“I’m learning and I’m liking it a lot,’’ he added. “There’s a lot of flexibility to it and there are different approaches to each play.

“I’m trying to get all the nuances down and I’m picking up stuff from Henry and coach as well. There are a lot of different answers for a lot of different things the defence does. Each play can take on a different feel based on what we see out there.”

At the end of the day, no matter what offence is run and no matter the terminology, it still comes down to execution.

Offensively, any team wants to attack down field, be balanced and put points on the board.

Once he figures things out, Porter provides the Ticats with a bona fide backup capable of starting if circumstances present themselves.

So unpredictable is football that Porter realizes change is as much part of the game as blocking and tackling.

BAD WEATHER MAKES COACH SMILE

No sense in simulating a bad weather environment when Mother Nature co-operates as she did on Friday in Tiger Town.

When it rains and it’s cold and the conditions turn nasty, mental toughness is revealed and arm strength among quarterbacks is exposed as the pigskin becomes heavy.

All in all, head coach George Cortez loved the inclement conditions.

In fact, he loved it so much Cortez wouldn’t mind a similarly brutal day when Hamilton’s main training camp opens on Sunday.

“You have to understand that you have to play the game no matter the conditions,’’ said the rookie head coach. “Some teams react better than others.

“If you can’t practise in it, you certainly can’t play in it.”

Throws came up short and balls were dropped, but each moment of adversity provided Cortez with more insight into the character of his unit.

“I told our receivers that we all want to high-point the ball and get our hands away from the ball,’’ said Cortez in describing some of the fundamentals of pass catching. “When it’s raining cats and dogs, you might want to put your chest behind it as well.

“Maybe you get two chances to catch it, once through your hands, the other when it rebounds off your chest.”

 


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