Ticats open camp with long memories (and a depth chart, too)

I’m posting my story on the first day of Ticats training camp below but I thought I’d also include the depth chart from today’s practice. Or, more accurately, what I believe to be the depth chart.

Why the qualifier? Well, I’m a firm believer that you can’t read too much into the early days of training camp. Veterans have a tendency to take early reps in camp and coaches will also experiment with different guys in different spots from day to day. Things will also change as we get closer to the first exhibition game, which will largely be about evaluating players. More importantly than any given single day is the patterns that inevitably emerge.

So please take this with a grain of salt (as all depth charts should be taken.) It’s based on observation but I’m not necessarily privy to whether, for example, Austin and company see Mossis Madu or Nic Grigsby as the No. 2 running back on the depth chart. I’ve also only included the first and second team because it tends to get a bit chaotic after that.

And a lot will change in the coming weeks.

Ticats depth May 31

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Ticats open training camp with plenty of motivation




Brian Bulcke spent the off-season staring at Bo Levi Mitchell.

The Ticats defensive tackle used a photo of the Calgary Stampeders quarterback hoisting the Grey Cup — which he earned by beating Hamilton 20-16 in last year’s championship game — as the wallpaper for his phone. It’s a form of self-motivation that veers dangerously close to self-flagellation.

“Every time I look at a text message or surf the net, I have a constant reminder about how bad last year hurt,” Bulcke said. “All winter, there were these little things …”

The Ticats stepped on the field as a group on Sunday for the first time since last November’s devastating loss, one that saw victory snatched away in the closing moments by a penalty flag that negated a potentially game-winning punt return by Brandon Banks. This is the second straight training camp Hamilton has opened as the league’s unwilling bridesmaids.

Running back C.J. Gable says the back-to-back losses have given him a different kind of motivation, one that puts team goals even further ahead of the personal ones. Gable played in just seven games last season due to foot and shoulder injuries but doesn’t lament his low rushing totals or missed opportunities. He just remembers standing on the sidelines, helpless.

“I was thinking about it the whole time. I felt like I let the team down when I got hurt and that I could have helped,” said Gable, who is now fully healthy. “We need to make sure we get it done this time. This year has to be it. It has to be.”

Despite the Grey Cup loss, there were plenty of positives to take from 2014, particularly a stretch drive that saw the Ticats go 8-3 while locking down their first East Division title since 1998. But a 1-6 start put them in an early hole, and linebacker Simoni Lawrence says one of the early focuses will be a strong start.

“We have to expect to win all the time, from the beginning of the season to the end,” Lawrence said. “We want to start hot and play like the team that goes to the Grey Cup every year.”

Head coach Kent Austin doesn’t think it’s possible to carry momentum from season to season and has always emphasized the here and now. He says he and his coaching staff will find different ways to deliver that message this season.

“We stay focused on the present. But I think what we can carry forward is all the experiences that we’ve had in the last two years and grow as a football team,” he said.

With a unit that is missing just one starter from last year’s Grey Cup game, Bulcke said the defence is in a position to build on concepts and schemes that weren’t introduced until midway through last season. It’s only Day 1 of training camp but Bulcke already has a plan for the end of the season — and it involves staring at his own quarterback for a change.

“The picture I want on my phone is Zach Collaros hoisting the trophy,” Bulcke said. “But it all starts with the first game.”

Cold and rainy

It was like November in May.

Ticats first day of training camp on Sunday featured unseasonably cold temperatures along with driving rain and brisk winds. The team had scheduled two practices but cut the day short after the morning session and will try and make up the time later in the week.

Still, it wasn’t all bad.

“It was good for our mental toughness to open up this way but we needed to get a little bit more accomplished,” said Austin.

The team plays its first exhibition game on June 8 and has just six practice days left before taking on the Ottawa Redblacks at Tim Hortons Field. That puts pressure on first-year players trying to make an impression and on Austin’s staff as they try and make their evaluations.

“There’s probably going to be a couple of cases where we’re going to have to do some projection,” Austin said.

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