The dog days of CFL training camp 2011 are over. Practice has its purpose, but football players live for game day.
Pre-season games open an opportunity for rookie hopefuls to prove their worth and give birth to a professional career. When the Tiger-Cats take on the Argos on Saturday afternoon there will be many unfamiliar faces and names hitting the field in Ticats colours.
“Really, what I get most excited about is seeing the young guys play... seeing the transition from the practice field to the game field. Just seeing the progress and growth in those guys, that’s what I get most excited about in the pre-season,” Ticats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille said after the team's walkthrough on Friday.
A number of veterans will not suit up for the Ticats first pre-season contest.
“12 of 24 starters will sit out and the reason is, we really need to evaluate the younger players and this is their best opportunity,” Bellefeuille said. “Some of it comes down to combinations, we want to see certain guys play with other guys. The evaluation process is what’s important now.”
As for what the Ticats bench boss is hoping to see out of his team on Saturday, it is quite clear that he wants to establish the 2011 brand of Tiger-Cats football.
“You can set a tone regardless of who is playing. You want them to play a certain style of football,” Bellfeuille said. “That will be one of the last things I’ll tell them, I want to see you guys play our style of football.”
Quarterbacks are looked upon to lead the way on any football team, and on Saturday, with Kevin Glenn relegated to the sidelines, Quinton Porter will get the starting nod and look to set the team on the right track.
“I’m out there to set the tone for the game and make sure that these younger guys settle in and relax out there,” Porter said. “I’ll be out there to try to make sure that we’re executing the offence and the rest of the game should roll pretty smoothly.”
The former Boston College Eagle is interested to see how some rookie receivers can perform come game time on Saturday afternoon.
“There is a pretty good battle at receiver and I’d like to see what Aaron Kelly does and Bakari Grant... I think those guys have been really exciting in camp. I think Chris Williams also has some big play potential,” Porter said. “I’d like to see some vertical threat from them which is something we could use. They’ve shown it on the practice field so I want that to translate to the game situation, so I’m going to be looking to get some big plays out of those guys.”
Even though the new Ticats receivers have had limited time to build a rapport with the quarterbacks on the roster, Porter feels the connections have developed quickly.
“I’ve completed a lot of balls downfield to Kelly and that’s not something that happens right off the bat,” he said. “Right now I think we’re definitely ahead of were you think we would be with guys who you haven’t really thrown to.”
Number 12 is focused on playing well and setting his team up for success.
“It’s a personal statement for me, but I am trying to focus on getting this team where it needs to be,” Porter said. “Jason [Boltus] is pegged to get the rest of the game, so I’m looking forward to having a good first quarter and just relaxing and watching Jason play.”
After having spent the past two seasons in Hamilton seeing Boltus develop, Bellefeuille wants to see Boltus produce in his first extended game action.
“I want to see growth and progress. Some of that you’ll see on the field from the naked eye and some you won’t,” Bellefeuille said. “Some of it will be just him commanding the huddle, just him getting plays called correctly, managing the clock, different things like that the average fan wouldn’t notice. As well as his reads and what he does athletically on the field.”
“Quinton will get a quarter, but really this game will be about Jason Boltus.”