Ticats’ centre Darius Ciraco realizes offensive line needs to improve after poor start

Photo courtesy: Ticats.ca

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ offensive line has regressed dramatically since the 2019 season and centre Darius Ciraco is determined to see the unit improve.

“There’s definitely a lot of ways to get it fixed and that starts individually with myself and each guy across the board. We’re meshing and it’s been a year and a half off football. We’re just trying to work through it. We’ve had different guys in and out of the rotation, so that’s kind of messed up the meshing of guys a little bit,” said Ciraco via videoconference.

“At the same time, there’s no excuses. We just gotta go out there and produce. Whoever’s on the field, we just gotta go and that starts individually. For myself, I’m working on my technique, making the right calls, and making sure everyone know what they’re doing.”

The Ticats have started eight different offensive linemen in just two games with Ciraco and left guard Brandon Revenberg as the only holdovers from Week 1 to Week 2. Trevon Tate started the season-opener at left tackle against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but was released during the team’s recent bye week.

“We haven’t been the same. It’s hard to gel on a bye week,” said head coach Orlondo Steinauer. “We’ve played two games and we’ve had training camp, but the way we look now is not what we looked like in training camp, so we’re just working through it. We’re going to go out there and be a no-excuse football team and we’re going out there expecting to win just like every team does.”

Hamilton’s offensive line allowed six sacks in a recent loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The unit won’t return to its elite form overnight, which is why Ciraco is taking a day-by-day approach to improve on step at a time.

“Coach O is a great leader,” said Ciraco. “I’m just trying to learn by the example he sets, just the way he goes about everything. The positive mindset, getting one percent better every day. Working on yourself, focusing on one thing, and then as that builds up over time, if you get one percent better each day, by the end of the season it’s a huge gain.”

The former first-round CFL draft pick out of the University of Calgary played his first two seasons in Hamilton at guard, though he made the switch to centre following the retirement of Mike Filer. The change has meant taking on a strong leadership role and increasing his preparation time with one to two hours of extra film study per day.

“It’s been a lot more mental, that’s for sure. I’m in there every day watching a lot more film. Even just trying to emulate the example that was set by Mike Filer before me because he was a great centre — great preparation, the way he approached the game — so I’m trying to emulate that and bring my own style to it and just prepare as well as I can,” said Ciraco.

“As a centre, you look at it more as the big picture more than as a guard, it’s more individualized and looking for guys. I definitely do both and take both approaches to it,” said Ciraco.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.