Jack B. Bedell
Nobody knows better than B.C. Lions fans how big an impact Bob O’Billovich can have on a franchise. He helped stack the Lions’ roster with talent and depth for years before moving to Hamilton after the 2007 season.
In a little over two years, O’Billovich has managed a phenomenal makeover on a club that seemed downright snake-bitten in its decisions on and off the field prior to his arrival.
Whether it was dumping a quality coach a year too early in the case of Greg Marshall, or cutting loose a GM before he could execute his plans in Marcel Desjardins, or signing a long line of underperforming, “top-shelf” talent like Josh Ranek, Jason Maas, Casey Printers, Naughtyn McKay-Loescher, or Kenton Keith, the Ticats just couldn’t get things right (for whatever reason). Until Obie showed up.
Now, in three off-seasons, O’Billovich has turned over 80% of the roster, stocking the team with real depth at all positions across the board. And he’s turned the culture of the team a full 180 degrees, creating high standards and even higher expectations.
Hamilton’s offence boasts legitimate stars in Kevin Glenn, DeAndra’ Cobb, Arland Bruce III, Mo Mann, Marwan Hage, and Jason Jimenez. The defence is stacked, too, with ballers like Jykine Bradley, Will Poole, Jason Shivers, Geoff Tisdale, Otis Floyd, Jamall Johnson, Markeith Knowlton, and Khari Long. And the Ticats special teams now sport the most accurate kicker in CFL history, Sandro DeAngelis.
The faith the team has shown in Head Coach Marcel Bellefeuille and his staff has also gone a long way toward building a winner in Steeltown. Bellefeuille’s consistent demeanor and solid decision-making, not to mention the quality of his coaching, gives Hamilton a shot week in and week out.
After breaking even at 9-9 last season, you can bet the Ticats are going to end up on the winning side of the ledger in 2010. The talent is in place, the coaching is solid, and there’s no doubt about the effectiveness of the front office.
It says an awful lot about the state of the franchise in Hamilton these days when simply making the playoffs is no longer good enough. The proof of this Ticats squad will come in how deep it goes into November.
That’s a long way to come in two and a half years. But in an East Division owned for a decade by the Montreal Alouettes, there’s still a ways to go for the Tabbies.