With the right side of the Ottawa Redblacks offensive line in flux, Jake Harty is showing that he can foster some flexibility with the ratio.
The Redblacks, needless to say, did not take Harty from the Calgary Dinos with the No. 10 overall choice in 2015 just to have him tear downfield like a banshee on punt and kickoff coverage. The 25-year-old is showing more polish as a wide-side wide receiver while working with the Henry Burris-helmed first-string offence. Burris and Harty renewed their Calgary connection early in Monday's excruciation game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, with the second-year wideout getting two catches for 36 yards from his three targets. Harty made a nice cut on a post route for a 22-yard catch on Ottawa's opening series. In the second quarter, Harty laid out for a 14-yard catch to help Ottawa pick up on second-and-8. In his time, he ran tight, precise routes on almost every down, which is a good indicator for someone at the receiver spot that typically sees the fewest targets.
"For me, the mental game, coming back and understanding the playbook, is huge," Harty said after the 18-14 Redblacks win. "Understanding the mental game builds your confidence. You're able to go out there and play and not think. You know what to expect.
"This off-season, I've been working on my routes, everything. It is the little things when you get to the next level."
Harty, at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, is bigger than most receivers who line up on the field side. Ottawa also had third-year international Khalil Paden as an option at the spot.
"Jake's made a lot of plays for us in training camp and we know his playmaking ability, coming off of last year," Burris said. "He looked like he'd been doing it for years."
Ottawa managed the rare feat of keeping their O-line intact for all 20 games in 2015, which was a big part of becoming the Eastern rep at the Grey Cup. Nolan MacMillan, whom ideally would have slid over from right guard to the vacated right tackle, has been nursing a wrist ailment. Harty showing he can handle the spot would create an option to play three Americans on the line.
Burris and Harty have a kinship. Burris and Harty regularly trained together when both were based in Calgary, and in 2010 the receiver practised with the Stampeders.
"It was awesome, and once I got drafted here it was a thrill to play with Henry again," Harty said. "When you're catching passes from one of the best quarterbacks to play in the CFL — the best quarterback in the CFL, it's great."
Coach Rick Campbell indicated that he would be comfortable going with Harty.
With the CFL season kicking off on June 23, here is the best synopsis on where the CIS grads fit in with Ottawa.
Receivers / backs — Of course, in addition to Harty, Brad Sinopoli (uOttawa) returns at No. 3 receiver after a breakout 1,000-yard season. Ottawa has another Canadian catching passes with fullback Patrick Lavoie.
Kienan Lafrance (Manitoba) was listed third at running back on Monday. Ottawa GM Marcel Desjardins might be burning up a lot of his data searching for RB candidates after starter William Powell suffered a knee injury on Monday.
Sinopoli and Lavoie's respective backups, Brendan Gillanders (uOttawa) and Scott MacDonnell (Queen's), should shore up what were some dodgy special teams units for much of 2015.
Defensive front seven — Antoine Pruneau (Montréal) is ensconced as a rangy secondeur who can cover the pass. The Redblacks seem intent on having a two-Canadian front four, and Arnaud Gascon-Nadon (Laval) is penciled in at defensive end. Gascon-Nadon had a strip sack on Monday.
Former OUA sack leader Ettore Lattanzio (uOttawa) was listed as a backup to national starting D-tackle Zack Evans on Monday. On a pass rush in the second quarter, the undersized Lattanzio made a nice inside move that led to a Winnipeg holding penalty.
Not surprisingly for a team in the bilingual National Capital Region, Ottawa knows it does not hurt to have a few Quebecers on the roster. Linebacker Jonathan Beaulieu-Richard (Montréal) seems locked in as a trustyworthy special teamer.
Defensive secondary — Ottawa's cover corps are all American. Second-rounder Mikaël Charland (Concordia, eligibility remaining) is being eyed as a special teams contributor.
Specialists — The ideal in the CFL, with the 18-game schedule and so many kicking plays, is having two Canadians who can perform in all three capacities. Christopher Milo (Laval) stabilized Ottawa's placekicking. Ronnie Pfeffer (Laurier), last season's punter, didn't complete Monday's game due to injury.
Milo can be kicker and punter, but is probably better handling only the former.