Kicker a question, Kralt rises for 'D'

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

It's about those Renegades ... heading into battle with the Ticats.

At this point, expect Matt Kellett to be kicking for Ottawa at "Never Wynne" Stadium in Hamilton Saturday.

After needing punter Pat Fleming and untried rookie Mark Irwin to fill in for him the last two games, Kellett gave his tender right groin its most extensive test yet by booting about 20 balls during yesterday's practice.

"It felt good ... a big improvement, even from last week," said Kellett, who has rebounded from an 0-for-2 start to connect on 11 of his last 13 field goal tries.

"I've just got to get over the tentativeness, to not be scared when I go to the ball. I was hitting some from 45 and I felt (the groin) on the last one, but that's normal. It was probably just fatigue setting in. I will be interested to see what's going to happen when I go to the ball full speed. It might already be there. It might be just me holding myself back. We'll find out (today)."

Coach Joe Paopao, who must submit his roster this afternoon, said he wants to know unquestionably that Kellett is fit to play.

'50-50 GUY'

"He's a 50-50 guy," Paopao said cautiously. By our count, kicking 19-of-20 without problems makes him a 95% guy, with a few hours to go before the final test.

- Jason Kralt is the Renegades middle linebacker of the future -- for now.

While the coaching staff says he has done a good job filling in for the injured Keaton Cromartie -- and while starting the Ottawa-raised Kralt allows Paopao to use two imports on the offensive line -- the team is still exploring options.

One is by addition, bringing in an American middle linebacker by either free agent signing or trade. Another is to move Kai Ellis to the position at which he was an All-American in college and where he was playing (with the Calgary Stampeders) when the Renegades first saw him.

An end this season, Ellis as a middle linebacker allows Ottawa to dress him, Anthony Collier and Ray Jacobs, thus adding depth and insurance in case one of the latter two goes down.

Barring a drastic change of heart, however, Kralt will again begin in the middle this weekend.

Cam Yeow, the team's first-round pick in the 2005 Canadian College draft, took "15-20" snaps on defence in last Friday's win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders and will see at least that many against the Ticats -- either when the Renegades switch to a three man front or Kralt needs a break.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Greg Marshall points out that Kralt, a 31-year-old former Carleton Raven, was used quite a bit (as well as contributing largely in his role as special teams captain) even before Cromartie suffered his season ending knee injury.

"I always knew he was a good football player," Marshall said of Kralt, known around Frank Clair Stadium as Sarge. "But sometimes you don't fully understand exactly how much a guy brings to the team until you have a chance to work with him."

Either way, Kralt says he'll carry on as a "role player" whose goal it is to "bring a winning program to Ottawa" before he retires.

"People forget that I was a starter with B.C. the year they went to the Grey Cup (2000) before I broke my foot," said Sarge. "Starting is no big deal, whether I'm playing MAC or covering punts, whatever they want."

EXTRA POINTS: Who would have thought that, for the 0-5 Ticats, an early-August visit from the Renegades represents almost a must-win if they are to have serious hopes of making the playoffs? A loss and they would be four wins behind Ottawa (and probably in need of a 7-5 finish, at least) with the head-to-head tiebreaker favouring the Renegades. "They're at home and they always play good there ... they don't call it Never Wynne Stadium for nothing," said Kralt, contending that it's too early to view this as an opportunity to put a nail in the Ticats 2005 coffin. "We know they'll come out and fight hard." ... Of Ottawa's 3-3 start against a tough schedule, Kralt added: "It's a different attitude here this year. We know what we have in the locker room, and we have to build on that. The fans have seen losing for so long, it's understandable if they're skeptical. I don't blame them. We were 3-0 last season and then we tanked it. At least they're still coming out." ... With Danny McManus sidelined by a hand injury and Khari Jones still new to the Ticats system, the Renegades expect Marcus Brady to be Hamilton's starting QB Saturday. "He finished (last week's game in Edmonton) and looked good," said Paopao. "Receivers were open and he hit them. Plus, he's been there for two years. We're preparing for Marcus." ... Even though Obby Khan and Reggie Nelson are nearly ready to return from injury, the Renegades are planning to go with the same offensive line for the second week in a row -- for the first time this season ... Brad Banks participated in his second straight practice and is probably a week away from returning. Pencilled in as the No. 2 QB this season, Banks has been out since training camp with a shoulder injury.


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