TATE BACK UNDER CENTRE
The big question in Calgary is whether Stampeders starter Drew Tate can stay healthy. The former Iowa star opened the 2012 campaign as the No. 1 quarterback but spent most of the regular season on the sideline with a shoulder dislocation before suffering a season-ending broken forearm in Calgary's opening playoff win over Saskatchewan. Although veteran Kevin Glenn led the Stampeders to a Grey Cup appearance versus Toronto, head coach/GM John Hufnagel ended any talk of a quarterback controversy by naming Tate the starter to open camp. The six-foot, 192-pound Tate made three starts in 2012, completing 46-of-73 passes (73 per cent) for 570 yards and four TDs with three interceptions. Should Tate struggle, Calgary has Glenn, sophomore Bo Levi Mitchell and newcomer Ryan Perrilloux on the depth chart.
MITCHELL EXPECTED WITH ARGOS
Strengthening a decimated defensive line was an off-season priority for Toronto GM Jim Barker, with the departure of Armond Armstead (NFL's New England Patriots), Adriano Belli (retired), Ron Flemons (released) and Ricky Foley (Saskatchewan, free agent). With only veteran tackle Kevin Huntley returning to the defending Grey Cup champions, Barker acquired former CFL all-star Khalif Mitchell from B.C. The controversial Mitchell, 28, who was suspended twice last season, initially balked at reporting to Toronto, but Barker has said he expects the six-foot-five, 315-pound Mitchell in uniform Sunday when the Argos open camp. Mitchell was suspended for the first time last year for hyper-extending the arm of Edmonton offensive lineman Simeon Rottier before receiving another ban and fine for derogatory tweets.
WILLIAMS' UNCERTAIN CFL FUTURE
Kent Austin begins his first season as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach, GM and football operations director with the mandate of getting the club back into the CFL playoffs. The Ticats missed the post-season last year with a 6-12 record, which cost head coach/GM George Cortez his job after one season. A bright spot for Hamilton was speedy receiver/kick-returner Chris Williams, who scored a club-record 17 TDs and was named the league's top special-teams player. But Williams' CFL future is in limbo as his agent tries to free him from his CFL deal to pursue NFL offers. Williams isn't expected in camp with the Ticats as his case is before an arbitrator. Even if the decision goes in Hamilton's favour, questions exist whether Williams will report, and if he does, when.
NEW TEAM FOR GEROY SIMON
After 14 CFL seasons, Geroy Simon is starting over. The veteran slotback is preparing for his first campaign with the Saskatchewan Roughriders after being acquired from the B.C. Lions this off-season. Simon spent 12 seasons with B.C., helping the team win two Grey Cup titles and serving as the longtime face of the franchise. But the 37-year-old was hampered by two hamstring injuries last year that limited him to just 54 catches for 700 yards and two TDs, the first time in 10 years Simon didn't crack the 1,000-yard receiving plateau. Already the CFL's all-time receiving yards leader, Simon needs 29 catches to break Ben Cahoon's all-time record (1,017). If healthy, Simon gives the Riders a reliable veteran receiver with big-play ability to complement all-star slotback Weston Dressler, who had a team-high 94 catches for 1,206 yards and 13 TDs in 2012.
LIFE AFTER MARC TRESTMAN
Dan Hawkins has big shoes to fill as the Montreal Alouettes head coach. He replaces Marc Trestman, who led the club to a 59-31 regular-season record and two Grey Cup wins over five seasons before being named head coach of the NFL's Chicago Bears. Trestman was regarded as an offensive guru and a quarterback technician. Alouettes veteran Anthony Calvillo flourished under Trestman, passing for more than 5,000 yards three times since 2008. Fortunately for Hawkins, Calvillo returns for a 20th CFL campaign and longtime GM Jim Popp remains after garnering NFL interest this off-season.