Drew Tate is brimming with confidence heading into his first season as a starting quarterback of the Calgary Stampeders.
Tate won all three games as starter late last season after taking over from veteran Henry Burris.
“I’m very confident,” said Tate. “I think we all are. If we’re not confident then we’re not going to be successful.”
He’ll be backed up by Kevin Glenn, who the Stamps acquired in an off-season deal on Jan. 3 that sent Burris to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Like Tate, running back Jon Cornish was elevated from a back-up role to become a starter last season. Cornish took over from the since-released Joffrey Reynolds as the team’s top rusher in Week 13 of the 2011 CFL campaign.
“I have a nearly infinite amount of confidence in myself and the abilities of my teammates,” said Cornish, who has liked what he has seen during training camp and the pre-season when the Stamps went 2-0.
Heading into Calgary’s first game of the season at home on Sunday, Cornish summed up what fans should expect to see from the Stamps.
“You’ll see explosions, you’ll see the big plays being made,” Cornish said. “You’ll see a lot of big stops being made on defence. We’re going to have, I think, a lot of turnovers, a lot of sacks with these guys we’ve got. We’re going to have a lot of yardage come from our wide receivers. Drew’s going to be spreading the ball all over the place and I think our run game’s going to be pretty good too.”
While Tate and Cornish are entering their first full seasons as starters for Calgary, veteran receiver Nik Lewis is back for his ninth straight year with the Stamps.
“I feel good,” said Lewis, who has liked what he has seen from the new-look Stamps through training camp and the two exhibition wins.
“I feel like I got my flow a little bit in that last pre-season game so I feel confident. We’ve won tough games so that lets you know that we’ll go out and we’ll play hard. We’ve just got to see what the season holds. We’ve got some guys who can go out and make plays and we’ve just got to keep working hard.”
In addition to seeing the departures of Burris and Reynolds, Lewis also said goodbye to his good friend and fellow receiver Ken-Yon Rambo, who was released near the end of training camp.
“It feels a little bit more different now without some of the guys I’m used to around here, but that’s the business,” said Lewis, who added he believes in Tate’s ability to run the offence this season. “I’m feeling confident in what he’s doing and the growth that he’s showing every day in practice, so we’re good.”
In addition to Cornish and Lewis, Tate will have plenty of weapons at his disposal with the likes of receivers Johnny Forzani, Romby Bryant, Jabari Arthur, Arjei Franklin, Chris Bauman, Landon Talley and Marquay McDaniel and running backs LaMarcus Coker and Rob Cote.
Returning offensive linemen Edwin Harrison, Steve Myddelton, Jon Gott, Dimitri Tsoumpas and Stanley Bryant will be called upon to protect Tate while opening up holes for Cornish and his fellow running backs.
The defence will once again be anchored by linebacker Juwan Simpson, who was named as one of four team captains along with Tate on offence and Marc Calixte and Larry Taylor on special teams.
“I’ve always thought of myself as a leader,” Simpson said. “I’m going to continue to do what I’m doing and do what I can to help this team win.”
Other veterans back on defence for the Stamps include defensive linemen Charleston Hughes and Corey Mace, linebacker Malik Jackson and defensive backs Brandon Smith and Keon Raymond.
“We have a great group core of guys and the new young guys have come in, they’ve done an exceptional job since Day 1, so I’m really excited with what we have,” said Simpson, who was impressed with the play of defensive back Fred Bennett in training camp and the pre-season.
“He has some years in the (NFL), but you never know how those guys turn out up here. They can’t always adjust to the game, the speed of the game. I’m very confident in him and what he brings to the table and everybody else.”
On special teams, Rene Paredes will be counted upon as the primary field-goal kicker, Rob Maver will take over the punting duties from Burke Dales who signed with the Edmonton Eskimos in the off-season, while Taylor hopes to make an impact as a kick returner.
“I’m more comfortable,” said Taylor, who’s back for his second season with the Stamps. “We feel good about each other. Towards the end of (last) season we started to have some success, started playing the way we wanted out on special teams, so we’re just looking to translate that over to this year.”
While Simpson is confident that Calgary can contend for top spot in the West Division, he cautioned that the Stamps have a lot of work ahead of them.
“We’re very confident from Day 1,” Simpson said. “We’re not going to win it today. It’s going to take 18 games, but I like the direction this team is going and I like what we have to offer.”