The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have been forced to make a number of roster changes ahead of their Week 2 contest against the Calgary Stampeders, most notably sitting all-star defensive lineman Dylan Wynn and American running back Don Jackson.
The 29-year-old Wynn did not practice all week and while head coach Orlondo Steinauer did not seem overly concerned following Wednesday’s practice, things obviously changed over the last two days.
“It’s more precautionary,” Steinauer said on Thursday. “If it was a different type of football game, things may be different.”
Taking Wynn’s place in the starting lineup will be fellow American Lee Autry II. The Mississippi State University product is in his second season with the Ticats having played four games for the team last year, including starting in last year’s Grey Cup when veteran defensive lineman Ted Laurent was forced to miss the game after having an emergency appendectomy earlier that week.
Autry will be joined on the interior of the defensive line by free-agent acquisition Micah Johnson, who will be making his first start at home as a member of the Tiger-Cats after signing with the team in free agency in February.
The nine-year CFL veteran believes that his new battery mate Autry will do just fine.
“Even though he’s a young guy, he always prepares like he’s playing,” Johnson said about the six-foot-two, 305-pound native of Albemarle, North Carolina.
Autry’s insertion isn’t the only change to the Ticats’ starting defensive line as Canadian Mason Bennett makes his first start of the season replacing last week’s starter Malik Carney.
The Tabbies also made changes along the offensive line, with moves first reported as likely on Wednesday. The unit will see American rookie Tyrone Riley make his first career start at left tackle, where the North Carolina State University product is taking over for last week’s starter Travis Vornkahl. Vornkahl is moving to right guard while last week’s starter Jesse Gibbon is sliding over to centre to fill in for the injured Alex Fontana.
All of these moves necessitated the team sitting American running back Don Jackson. Jackson was limited in practice on Tuesday but was a full participant the rest of the week.
Jackson not playing is not sitting well with a good number of Tiger-Cats fans, as many believe the Sacramento, California native was one of the main catalysts for the Ticats’ resurgence late last season.
With the Tabbies opting to go with two Americans along the offensive line, the team had to make a sacrifice somewhere else. They inserted the Canadian Bennett to replace the American Carney to meet the starting ratio requirement but needed to remove another American to be fully roster compliant. Jackson was the odd man out.
The Ticats will go with an all-Canadian running back duo of Sean Thomas-Erlington and Maleek Irons. Thomas-Erlington started last week but finished without registering a single carry, catching three passes for 18 yards and forcing a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half.
In other Tiger-Cats news, Saturday’s home opener will feature a few changes to Tim Hortons Field, with the most noticeable being the unveiling of what the team is calling a “new social experience at Tim Hortons Field” with the Stelco North End.
The steel giant paid approximately $20 million for a 40 percent stake in the team in January, and joined long-time Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Forge FC Chief Executive Officer Scott Mitchell and Woodbine Entertainment Chief Executive Officer Jim Lawson in forming the Hamilton Sports Group, a conglomerate that owns and operates the Ticats and Hamilton’s Canadian Premier League franchise, Forge FC.
Tickets in the revamped north end zone will cost $27 and there will be general admission only with no assigned seating.
The Ticats have done an excellent job since opening Tim Hortons Field in 2014 by giving home games a party-like atmosphere, with the large, open concourses, a massive south end zone plaza as well as areas like the Coors Banquet Bar in the north-east corner of the stadium as places for fans, especially younger ones, to congregate.
The addition of the Stelco North End section will only enhance the team’s appeal to that younger crowd that enjoys those types of amenities.
Saving the best for last, Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Dane Evans missed practice on Tuesday for the best reason possible, the birth of his first child. Evans and his wife Nikki welcomed daughter Ivy into the world on Tuesday morning.
We here at 3DownNation would like to congratulate the Evans family on the addition to their family.