Hamilton Ticats’ offensive line back intact after season of injury and moving parts


Published December 11, 2021 at 3:57 pm

Injuries and a revolving cast made for a challenging season up front for Hamilton. Ticat quarterbacks were sacked 40 times, tied for second-worst in the league.

In contrast, the Winnipeg offensive line allowed a league-low 16 sacks.

But Hamilton goes into Sunday’s championship game against the Blue Bombers with its preferred front five: tackle Jordan Murray, guard Brandon Revenberg, centre Darius Ciraco, guard Coulter Woodmansey, and tackle Chris Van Zeyl.

Van Zeyl and Revenberg are the veterans of the crew. Murray and Woodmansey are rookies while Ciraco, who played 16 games at right guard in 2019, is a first-year centre.

“We’ve definitely had some moving parts throughout,” said Revenberg, a five-year veteran from Essex, Ont. “I’ve played next to a few different guys. But overall it’s a real tight-knit group … we all get along really well and that’s what you’re looking for in an offensive line, for sure.”

They will have to contend with a hard-charging Bomber front four led by led by Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat. Once again, the battle in the trenches will be key.

“Best in the East,” Jefferson said when asked how he rated the Ticats line. “To make it this far … their coaching staff have done a good job to keep those guys together, keep those guys on the same page.

“But there are some things that they lack at. And that’s coming from the youth side — the young guys stepping in. But they’ve done a good job so far coming up, playing guys this year. And it’s going to be a test when we play them Sunday.”

Hamilton offensive co-ordinator Tommy Condell describes his offensive line as physical and adaptable. They are also young and old.

Murray and Woodmansey have a combined 18 CFL games between them. At the other end of the spectrum, Van Zeyl has 180, Revenburg 85 and Ciraco 46.

“Great leadership to walk into, especially as a rookie,” Murray said of Van Zeyl and Revenberg.

At six foot nine and 325 pounds, the Texan is tall timber. And he’s enjoying plenty of new sensations leading up to his first Grey Cup, none more so than snow.

“I love snow. It’s new to me,” Murray said with a smile. “Actually Tuesday (practice) was my first time playing football in snow. We had the playoff game against Montreal but I wasn’t active for that. It was fun.”

Van Zeyl, a 12-year veteran from Fonthill, Ont., was injured the first time he set eyes on Murray this season.

“As soon as I saw him I’m like ‘Geez, this guy’s a monster,'” said Van Zeyl, not exactly a jockey himself at six foot six and 312 pounds.

“He’s an incredible athlete. Long arms, strong. Kind of everything you want at tackle,” he added. “It’s been fun working with him. He’s very open to listening and everything.”

At 38 and headed to his fourth Grey Cup, Van Zeyl has pretty much seen all the league can offer. He’s not thinking of himself heading into Sunday’s game.

“These Grey Cups aren’t about me any more,” he said. “It’s about winning them for the city and players such as Brandon and (receiver) Speedy (Banks) and (linebacker) Simoni (Lawrence) and guys that have been here for years now and in Grey Cups and haven’t had the luxury of winning.

“This is special for them and I understand that. I’m going to do everything in my power to give them a chance to win a Grey Cup.”

The Ticats have not won the Grey Cup since 1999, when they beat Calgary 32-21 in Vancouver. They have lost all three appearances since, in 2013, ’14 and ’19.

Van Zeyl is also a fan of Revenberg, a gentle giant at 6-4 and 301 pounds.

“He’s one of those guys that you know you can count on when the chips are down,” he said.

No fool, Hamilton quarterback Dane Evans appreciates the big men in front of him.

“I tell them all the time, we go as y’all go,” said the Oklahoma native. “Everything we want to do quarterback-, receiver-, running back-wise, all of that’s a wash if the O-line’s not killing it, not doing their thing.

“I think it’s been beautiful that we’ve had to play so many guys this year at different spots. But I think we’ve got the right mix now … I trust them with everything, obviously. They’re protecting me.”

The Ticats wrapped up their practice week with a short session Saturday at an extremely windy Tim Hortons Field.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2021.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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