CFL cutdown day came on Saturday, and while it is easily one of the worst days on the calendar because so many players see their dreams end, it also gives us an indication of what the teams around the league will look like.
The Ticats released 20 players and added 11 to their practice roster, and while none were major surprises, there were a couple of minor surprises. Among those were Canadian defensive tackle Justin Vaughn and American linebacker Lucas Wacha.
Vaughn was drafted by the Ticats in 2017, and even saw some starts in his rookie year, but after missing almost all of last season with the injury, Vaughn was surpassed on the depth chart by 2018 draft pick Brett Wade. Vaughn, who grew up in Hamilton, should still have a future in the league, but unfortunately that future will not come with his hometown team.
Wacha spent most of his rookie year contributing on special teams, but he was very much in the mix to replace the departed Larry Dean at middle linebacker. But the signing of Justin Tuggle in the winter and the emergence of rookie Chris Frey made Wacha expendable. Expect Frey to take Wacha’s spot as one of the team’s designated imports.
A couple other players I was slightly surprised didn’t get a longer look were Demontre Hurst and James Allen. Allen had three near-interceptions in two pre-season games and performed well enough on returns that I thought a practice roster spot was possible. Hurst started the team’s first pre-season game at SAM linebacker and I thought he played well enough to earn a roster spot, especially because of how hard it is for American players to learn the SAM position.
Here is what else we learned after cutdown day:
And the fifth receiver is…
We have our answer as to who the team’s fifth receiver will be. Josh Crockett made the team, while Jaelon Acklin and Marcus Tucker were added to the practice roster. So it will likely be Crockett who starts the season as the team’s boundary receiver, with Bralon Addison, Brandon Banks, Luke Tasker and Mike Jones rounding out the rest of the starting lineup.
On the Global front, the Ticats opted to keep two players, running back Omar Cojolum and Valentin Gnahoua. Cojolum is listed on the suspended list, while Gnahoua is on the practice roster, meaning the Ticats still have not decided which player will be their imposed Global roster player. Cojolum was Hamilton’s second-round pick in this past January’s Mexican draft, while Gnahoua was the first overall pick in the recent European draft. I am curious to see how these players will be used in game situations, as I am still quite skeptical that this initiative is a good one.
Change in numbers
Number changes also come with the finalizing of the roster and a few Ticats have changed their numbers. Lorenzo Maudlin went from No. 45 to 94 and Tyrice Beverette went from 34 to 28. I am sure Omar Cojolum will at some point change his number from 73 because that is just not a running back’s number.
The starting lineup
With the roster now set, minus the inevitable players who will find their way to the 1- or 6-game injury list, we can get a better idea of what the starting lineup will look like when the Ticats kick off the season on Thursday at Tim Hortons Field against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
It truly looks like the Ticats will begin the season with eight Canadians in their starting lineup. Ted Laurent and Tunde Adeleke look like they will be the starters on defence, with Adeleke getting most of the time with the starters in Thursday’s pre-season finale. It is possible that Mike Daly could still be the team’s starting safety, so we will have to wait and see. On offence, the team will start four Canadians on the offensive line — Brandon Revenberg, Darius Ciraco, Mike Filer and Chris Van Zeyl — one at receiver in Mike Jones and Sean Thomas-Erlington at running back. Ryker Mathews will likely join the o-line group as the lone American starter.
The secondary looks like it will see Adeleke joined by Delvin Breaux and Cariel Brooks back on the boundary side, while Richard Leonard and Jumal Rolle return to their spots at field half and field corner, respectively.
The d-line will see Laurent joined by Dylan Wynn on the inside while being bookended by free agent acquisition Ja’Gared Davis and fifth-year Ticat Adrian Tracy, and the linebacking group will be Simoni Lawrence at WILL, Justin Tuggle at MAC and Rico Murray at SAM.
Cutdown day stinks in a lot of ways, but it is exciting also because it means the real season is just around the corner and after Saturday we now know what the 2019 version of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will look like.