Ticats offensive coordinator Condell excited about Burt’s versatility

Hamilton Tiger-Cats fans leave the east grandstand following the annual CFL Labour Day Classic against the Toronto Argonauts. (Aaron Lynett/CP)

He’s listed as a tight end by trade, but Jake Burt can expect to see plenty of different looks within the Hamilton Tiger-Cats offence.

Hamilton selected the former Boston College player first overall Tuesday in the CFL draft.

With the popularity of five-receiver packages in the pass-happy Canadian game, the tight end position has virtually disappeared from league offences.

The last tight end to be selected first overall was Weber State’s Gerald Wilcox in 1989 by the Ottawa Rough Riders.

Tommy Condell, Hamilton’s imaginative offensive co-ordinator, said there’ll definitely be packages in 2021 where the six-foot-four, 245-pound Burt lines up as a traditional tight end or takes a step back as an H-back. But Condell has much bigger plans for the rookie, like liking up as a slotback and wide receiver.

“To me, he’s got to align as I term, an in-line tight end, which means on the ball, but also an H-back,” Condell said. “That’s been his world for a while.

“That’s only one phase of the game and how we’re going to attack it, not only from a run-game situation but from a passing-game situation, a vertical (situation) more specifically and Jake can do all that.”

Burt had 23 catches for 307 yards and two touchdowns over 36 games at Boston College. Last year, he signed as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots and spent the entire season on the NFL team’s practice roster before becoming a free agent.

Burt grew up in Boston but was a late entry into the CFL draft because he was born in Regina and lived there for four years before relocating to the U.S. with his family.

Moving players around within Hamilton’s offence is nothing new for Condell. He’s had all-star receivers Brandon Banks and Bralon Addison line up wide, in the slot and even in the backfield in some packages.

Addison, who played quarterback in high school, has also taken snaps in Hamilton’s wildcat formation. And in 2019, when the Ticats’ offence scored a CFL-high 551 points, running back Sean Thomas-Erlington often lined as a receiver.

For Condell, it’s all about maximizing a player’s skill set to create mismatches against the opposing defence.

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Condell said. ”You always want to create those one-on-one matchups that are more advantageous for you.

“To me, it’s always about the players and what they do best and really trying to emphasize those things and then decrease the things that are a bit challenging.”

But first a player must buy into Hamilton’s offensive philosophy.

“If you look back and see how we’ve utilized other players within the system we have, it really comes down to positionless players,” Condell said. “I always try to talk about positonless coaches and positionless players.

“We always try to teach understanding concepts first. Once they understand concepts, then we can plug and play in different ways.”

There’s plenty to like about Burt’s blocking potential, given his size. But Condell said Burt also has good hands and receiving technique.

“He has enough speed (4.48-second time in 40-yard dash) but a guy like that must have off-the-chart ability to extend and make catches,” Condell said. “As a tight end, people are naturally always going to be draped all over the top you so you’ve got to be ready to be a hand catcher and extend away from your body and also body up and he’s able to do all that.

“Seeing how he has progressed from his Boston College days and then with New England on the practice roster, you can see a great development.”

But Condell is also impressed with Burt’s football acumen.

“When we talk about those types of players who can be multiple position-type players . . . you must have football IQ and general intelligence,” Condell said. “Obviously he passes that with flying colours.

“Going to Boston College just tells you that and when you get the chance to talk to him, that’s off the charts.”

Condell said Burt reminds him of Jason Clermont, the six-foot-two, 227-pound former Regina Rams star who was the B.C. Lions’ first-round pick in 2002. Clermont was not only a physical presence on the field, but a decorated player who was the CFL’s top rookie (2002) and twice its outstanding Canadian (2004, ’07) in addition to being a Grey Cup champion (2004) over 10 pro seasons.

“I think Jake’s similar to Jason Clermont but not exactly the same,” Condell said. “You haven’t seen that type of player in a long, long time and I think Jake is going to bring a lot of those things to the table for us..

“I’m just very very excited to get the chance to work with Jake.”

Having had no players to coach since 2019 has been difficult for Condell, who remains hopeful the CFL can resume play in 2021.

“I really miss the daily interaction with the players and coaches,” Condell said. “Iron sharpens iron and I know we make each other better as men, players and coaches.

“We stay in contact and all that but it’s the day-to-day, daily interaction and making each other accountable and better that I certainly miss personally. ”

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