He grew up in this country but still had to spend the first part of this season getting used to the wide Canadian field.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats rookie receiver Justin Buren — who will be in the starting dozen against the Argonauts in Toronto on Friday night — is back working the massive Canadian steppes after spending four years within the much tighter confines of the American game.
“It was difficult,” says the 23-year-old native of Coquitlam, B.C., out of Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University Clan, which plays four-down football in an NCAA Division 2 league.
“I was making a lot of mistakes at the beginning of camp, with the waggle, different reads, and the extra player. That really threw me for a loop. But guys like Terrence Toliver, Mike Jones, Speedy (Banks) and Luke Tasker made it easier for me to learn and adapt to the game.”
The injury scythe has cut a swath through the Hamilton receiving corps so wide that it’s been a major factor in head coach June Jones going more frequently to energy-preserving “walk-through” types of practices rather than the customary full-speed team drills.
The Ticats already had Jalen Saunders and Chris Williams on the six-game injured list and Toliver is headed there, too.
But team sources confirmed to The Spectator on Thursday that Terrell Sinkfield, who had a 1,000-yard campaign for the 2015 Ticats, is returning here. He would not be ready to play against Toronto, however, and Marquay McDaniel moves onto the active roster for Friday’s game.
So, the Ticats will have Jones and Buren start, with fellow Nationals Sean Thomas Erlington and Felix Faubert-Lussier also in the receiving mix.
Jones, who also runs the offence, has been watching Buren closely and likes his intelligence and catching ability.
“I think right now he’s one of our four or five best,” he says. “Young kids like him just need to play in games.”
The 23-year-old Buren, who grew up patterning his style after the signature moves of B.C. Lions legend Geroy Simon, the all-time CFL career receiving yardage leader, was chosen in the fifth round, 37th overall, of last June’s draft.
Assuming Buren starts Friday, which Jones says he will, that will make Hamilton the only team this season to start two players who were drafted in 2018, according to CFL statistician Steve Daniel. Burlington’s Darius Ciraco has been the season-long starter at right guard.
With Buren’s first CFL appearance, five of the Ticats’ nine 2018 draftees will have played this year. Mark Chapman, their first pick and No. 1 overall, has signed in the Alliance of American Football, and their other three choices all returned to university.
Buren says he’ll have a few nerves but after five months of practice immersion, he’ll also be confident in his ability to perform.
“We prepare pretty well here,” he says. “The coaches have put me in a position to succeed. The whole concept of our offence is fairly simple but the number of details that go into each route, each read, each play, is quite detailed. Even though you know the play you might not know the reads, but once you get the concept, it starts to slow down a bit. I’m just right now getting to that stage.”
Notes: Jones said it was three weeks ago that he began looking at Sinkfield closely on film and liked what he saw. He also said that Brandon Banks recommended him highly. … Defensive linemen Adrian Tracy and Jason Neill won’t play in Toronto.
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