Ticats notebook: Landon Rice will get first shot at guard spot

I wrote a story after the Hamilton Tiger-Cats season preview conference call, but there were a bunch of other things that came out of it that I couldn’t get into the piece. So here are some of them…

1. Landon Rice will get the first crack at replacing all-star guard Ryan Bomben

The Ticats traded Bomben (and other stuff) to the Alouettes in return for a package that included the first overall pick. Without Bomben, an all-star the last two seasons, the Ticats need a new right guard and Jones outlined the possibilities.

“We have five to six guys I really like. Landon Rice played a lot more than what people think last year so I would anticipate that he will start off there but it’s going to be a wide-open competition. It’s understandable that people second guess the trade but after looking at all the film and going through (mini-camp) I think it’s a decision that I think is going to pay off in the long run.”

In addition to Rice, the Ticats have Braden Schram, Brett Golding, Everton Williams and Kay Okafor, as well as 2018 draft pick Darius Ciraco. From that group, they’ll need a starter and at least one (and probably two) back ups on game day.

The Ticats could, conceivably, start three American linemen but I don’t think that’s the preferred course of action.

If the kids are indeed ready this year, the Ticats will be fine. If they aren’t the Bomben trade will be very easy to second guess.

2. The Ticats interest in Orlondo Steinauer started months before he was hired

When Steinauer’s return was announced in February after a season with the Fresno State Bulldogs, many people were surprised. The general sense was the deal had come together fairly quickly but head coach June Jones indicated on the conference call that it may have been in the works for quite some time.

“Scott and I talked eight months ago about this guy I’d never met and he asked me would I entertain talking with him, I know that he would like to come home,” Jones said. “Over Christmas, over the holidays, I had a chance to sit down with him and I see why he’s a successful coach. He wanted to further his career in terms of being a head coach and he’d never spent any time on offence.”

Eight months ago would be September or October, just after Jones took over as head coach.

When Steinauer’s return was announced, much of the surprise stemmed from the idea that he was on a track that would lead to a succession of increasingly lucrative American college jobs. But it’s possible that Steinauer returned to Hamilton for the simplest reason of all: because he wanted to be here.

3. Jones likes the look of Terrence Toliver

I’ve already reported that the American receiver, who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered on the opening series last year, could be ready for training camp but Jones talked a bit more about what Toliver might bring to the table.

“I’ve talked to him on the phone and I think he’s pretty close to being 100 per cent and I’m looking forward to getting to know him and see what exactly he can do for us,” Jones said. “I really like his size and in talking with the quarterbacks, he’s a really intelligent guy and it looked like he played a lot of spots on the field. It looks like he has a lot of talent.”

4. Canadian defensive end Connor McGough could have a larger role this season

McGough was the fourth overall pick last year and played in 18 games racking up 18 special teams tackles (good enough for second on the team. But Jones says he may get a bigger role on defence where the Ticats play a Canadian at defensive end.

“Having watched all the film, I’m more impressed with Connor’s progress and he needs to play. He’s got a great motor, he can run and he did a great job on special teams,” Jones said. “He got to play a little [on defence] but not as much as he will this year. I think he has tremendous upside.”

5. Jones feels good about the secondary

The Ticats struggled against the pass in the early stages of last season, especially during the 0-8 start. But the head coach said he feels better about things going into 2018.

“At the end of last year, I thought we were playing and covering as well as anybody,” he said. “We added a couple of guys that we think give us some depth but I’m pleased with how the back end looked at mini-camp.”