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Orlondo Steinauer's voice remains strong as Ticats head coach

HAMILTON — Being a CFL head coach hasn’t left Orlondo Steinauer speechless during training camp.

During his tenure as Hamilton’s defensive co-ordinator (2013-16), Steinauer said he was routinely left hoarse and speechless by the first week of camp. But eight days into his first as the Tiger-Cats head coach, Steinauer’s voice remains strong and deliberate.

"Obviously things fall on my shoulders, that’s what you sign up for [as head coach]," Steinauer said following Monday’s early session at Ron Joyce Stadium. "I think the transition has been real smooth but mainly that’s a credit to the staff and organization as a whole.

"You’re only as good as the people around you, the same way it is on the football field."

Steinauer left Hamilton following the ’16 season to become the defensive co-ordinator at Fresno State but returned last season as the Ticats’ assistant head coach under head man June Jones. With several CFL teams coveting the amiable Steinauer for head-coaching jobs, Hamilton promoted the 45-year-old to their top post last December as Jones assumed the assistant head coach/offensive co-ordinator positions.

But Steinauer faced his first coaching situation roughly two weeks ago when Jones left to become the head coach of the XFL’s Houston team. Fortunately, Steinauer was able to promote receivers coach Tommy Condell — who served as Ticats offensive co-ordinator under former head coach Kent Austin — to replace Jones.

While part of Steinauer’s responsibility now is to oversee camp, he makes no bones about becoming a hands-on coach if required.

"I’m not going to micro-manage but if I see some things, absolutely, that’s my job also," he said. "I’m overseeing things but I’m not afraid to jump in there and coach them hard and demand excellence.

"That’s for the coaches and players but they know that. I haven’t had to do it and so my voice is intact."

Last season, Hamilton (8-10) finished second in the East Division. After dispatching B.C. 48-8 in the conference semifinal, the Ticats lost 46-27 to Ottawa in the East final.

Many feel this year Hamilton will be the team to beat in the East Division after the Redblacks lost offensive co-ordinator Jaime Elizondo to the XFL as well as quarterback Trevor Harris, running back William Powell, receiver Greg Ellingson and offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers in free agency.

"The expectation for every team, I believe, is to win the Grey Cup," Steinauer said. "It’s about having a plan, staying the course and being flexible and able to adjust because this is the ultimate team game.

"It’s unfortunately a game of injuries and you just need to be prepared for those situations. We know the end goal, absolutely … but we’re more focused on the stepping stones of getting there. Other than that it’s day to day, practice to practice, drill to drill."

Steinauer inherits a Ticats team with plenty of proven talent, including quarterback Jeremiah Masoli (5,209 passing yards, 28 TDs last year), receiver Brandon Banks (129 catches, 1,423 yards, 11 TDs), all-star Canadian defensive tackle Ted Laurent and shutdown corner Delvin Breaux. Hamilton also signed former Calgary defensive lineman Ja’Gared Davis in free agency and added veteran tackle Chris Van Zeyl (released by Toronto) but lost linebacker Larry Dean (East’s top defensive player) and defensive back Don Unamba (both to Edmonton).

"Training camp is a time to figure out what people do well," Steinauer said. "We’re emphasizing competition, whether it’s American, Canadian or global players.

"Nobody has a spot earned outright. They (players) are being evaluated consistently, on and off the field. Some people are making huge strides in the classroom but it hasn’t clicked out here. Some people are fortunate where it clicks in the classroom and the field. Sometimes you have to wait for the game and see how everybody responds."

Hamilton’s first exhibition game is Saturday in Ottawa before concluding its pre-season schedule hosting Toronto on June 6. The Ticats open the regular season at home to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on June 13.

Like Jones, Steinauer brings a player’s background to the head job. The five-foot-11, 182-pound Steinauer spent 13 seasons as a CFL defensive back, including four years with Hamilton (1997-2000). He played on the Ticats’ last Grey Cup winner in 1999 under late head coach Ron Lancaster and was the club’s defensive co-ordinator in 2013-14 when it made consecutive Grey Cup appearances.

Banks feels that’s what makes Steinauer a player’s coach.

"He’s a coach players can relate to because he knows what we’re going through and has been through what we’re going through," Banks said. "He prepares you mentally more than physically … he makes you want to come out and play every day."

Masoli said Steinauer ensures that players understand his expectations.

"I’ve found him to be who coach O is, he’s been awesome," said Masoli, the East Division’s top player last season. "He’s been doing a great job setting the standards and making sure expectations are known so as players we know what we have to do.’