Normally the bulk of guest coaches, especially the bigger names, depart training camp after the first week.
So when Frank Gansz Jr. – who most notably led the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs’ special teams unit through several years of accolades – was still out there in week two and beyond, you suspected this wasn’t temporary.
So it was only a formality when Gansz was officially named as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Special Teams Coordinator earlier this week, because he’d been the main voice on the field during punting and kicking teams drills for over a fortnight.
The Ticats had originally planned to coordinate special teams by committee and, functionally, there’s still a lot of that going around.
Former all-star safety Craig Butler is, less than a year after his retirement as a player, working closely with the 55-year-old Gansz. Butler is, according to head coach June Jones, doing “most of the preparation, most of the game planning and they kind of work together on the schemes. Frankie takes the lead on the field with Craig behind the scenes directing him.”
Orlondo Steinauer figures into the planning mix too.
There are a couple of trees involved here; a family one and a coaching one. Gansz is the son of the late, legendary, Frank Sr., who spent 20 years in the NFL coordinating special teams. Senior worked for Jones at SMU in 2008, Junior was with Jones there a couple of years later.
Gansz Jr. spent nine years coordinating NFL special teams: in Oakland and Baltimore, along with the five years (2001-05) with the Chiefs.
“I’ve been doing it for a long time and I was around my dad for all those years, so the concepts and people, I just developed a fondness for them,” Gansz says. “And you get to coach everybody on the team. I think that, everywhere, special team coaches and coordinators are under-rated in their value to a team.
“They work with all the players and they’re in a pressure situation, especially up here. The stats are that 65 per cent of the games in this league are won in the last three minutes so the kicking game, with three downs, is absolutely huge.”
Gansz coached future Ticat and Argonaut star Adriano Belli at the University of Houston so he already knew there were excellent players in the CFL, and he’s been even more impressed with the talent depth since he got here.
He says that Butler has “been super” with him, especially in detailing the priorities of the three-down game.
“Techniques and some of the things schematically they’re very, very similar,” Gansz says of the cross-border compare-and-contrast. “But I’d say there are many more similarities than there are things that aren’t the same.”
Last year’s special teams coordinator Dennis McKnight is now the team’s offensive line coach.
NOTES: New running back John White, a 2014 CFL all-star, was on the field Wednesday but both he and June Jones say it’ll be a couple of weeks until he gets back up to game conditioning after missing the last 16 games with Edmonton last year with a torn ACL . . . Alex Green, who had been expected to start at running back, will be lost for two weeks with a hand injury . . .Hamilton native DT Travis Vaughn is off the field under concussion protocol after an injury Saturday in Montreal . . . Johnny Manziel says “there’s definitely no room for getting bored. Everything right now is new and fresh and interesting.”
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