Sergio Castillo’s shoes aren’t particularly big – the man is only 5-foot-9 – but they are going to be awfully tough to fill.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats kicker is likely done for the season after suffering a torn ACL in the win over Winnipeg on Friday. That means the Ticats will need to find a replacement and fast.
(Before we get to analyzing the options for Castillo’s replacement, let’s take a minute to pour a Tecate out in honour of a guy who is extremely well liked in the Ticats locker room after finally winning a CFL job and making the most of it. It’s a tough break for a good dude.)
There are several options available but all come with significant challenges.
The first is to find another American who can do all three jobs, which has been the preference under vice-president of football operations Kent Austin. While national Luca Congi did the job in 2013, Austin has gone from Justin Medlock to Brett Maher to Castillo the last three seasons while largely steering clear of Canadian kickers.The NFL season now in its fifth week, there are some unemployed American kickers out there, though few can handle all three jobs and fewer still have CFL experience – not an insignificant consideration, given the importance of directional kicking the unique challenges of playing in the notoriously windy Tim Hortons Field. Former CFLers Richie Leone and Anthony Fera are currently unemployed.
With the NFL season now in its fifth week, there are some unemployed American kickers out there, though few can handle all three jobs and fewer still have CFL experience – not an insignificant consideration, given the importance of directional kicking the unique challenges of playing in the notoriously windy Tim Hortons Field. Former CFLers Richie Leone and Anthony Fera are currently unemployed.
One name that that’s making the rounds is former Michigan kicker Kenny Allen, who handled all three jobs for the Wolverines. If Hamilton decides to stay American, there will be lots options but virtually all of them will be untested.
Canadian kickers are an option as well. Former Ticat Brett Lauther, who played four games with the Ticats in 2013 – he went four-for-four in a Touchdown Atlantic win over Calgary – has gotten looks from a couple of CFL teams this season, most recently Edmonton.
Edmonton currently has three kickers on the roster but Sean Whyte is on the six-game injured list and there are lingering questions about his health. The Eskimos are a good illustration of what happens when a kicker goes down – since Whyte was hurt, they’ve used three different guys, with very mixed results and are now using both American Swayze Waters (for field goals) and Canadian Hugh O’Neill (punting.) Would the Eskimos be willing to part with one of them? Unlikely.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have three kickers on the roster as well with Tyler Crapigna handling the placekicking and former Ticat Josh Bartel on punts. Quinn Van Gylswyk is on the six-game but may be healthy enough to play if the Riders were willing to part with him but it’s unlikely Hamilton will want to give up much – or anything – for an inexperienced kicker.
Since allowing Medlock to walk in a free agency before last season, the Ticats have held two open competitions for the kicking job and the most likely scenario will see them conduct a very accelerated version of that process this week, bringing in at least two kickers then making a decision closer to Friday’s game with Calgary.
As for Castillo, if his ACL is indeed torn, he faces a long road back. As Zach Collaros and Andy Fantuz have shown, recovery time is close to a year but given that it’s Castillo’s kicking leg, that process could be even more difficult. Canadian Sean Suisham suffered an ACL tear in 2015 while with the Steelers and hasn’t played since while Congi tore his in 2010 but was able to return to form.
Full range of motion, so integral to the kicking motion, is one of the hardest things to recover after surgery.
In meantime, the Ticats will need to find a replacement and hope that they, like Castillo, can exceed expectations. If they can’t, Hamilton’s remarkable resurgence could be in jeopardy.