January 30, 2014

Dunk: Collaros a perfect fit for Austin’s Ticats

It didn’t take long to find a winner in the Zach Collaros sweepstakes.

After the 25-year-old was released by Toronto on Wednesday, he agreed to a three-year contract with QEW-rival Hamilton on Thursday that will keep him in Black and Gold through the 2016 season.

Just Another Reason

Zach Collaros’ arrival in Hamilton from rival Toronto should signal the start of another bitter chapter in the long history of the Battle of Ontario, explains Justin Dunk.

Collaros’ deal with the Ticats had a domino affect as veteran Henry Burris was released.

Collaros gives Hamilton a dual-threat pivot who displayed the potential to be a franchise-type quarterback during his time as a starter in 2013. Yes, it is a small sample size, but Collaros was impressive when he was the No. 1 man for the Argos.

He produced a 5-2 win-loss record in seven starts. Four of his five wins came in a row on the road which is a Canadian Football League record. Think about that for a second, no other quarterback in CFL history – none of the legends of our great Canadian game – ever put together a run like Collaros managed to do last September.

Who he beat in the process was impressive as well. He guided the Argos to wins over Montreal, Saskatchewan, Calgary and Edmonton in successive weeks – Taylor Field in Regina is regarded as THE toughest stadium to go into and leave with a victory in the league.

During his seven games as the starting quarterback, Collaros completed 67 per cent of his passes for 1,829 yards, 12 touchdowns, five interceptions and added three rushing scores as well. In just his second season in the CFL those are some impressive numbers.

One stat that stands out the most is five, his low interception total. For such a young player learning the nuances of the Canadian game he protected the football. But even when things didn’t go his way, he dealt with adversity well too.

When Ricky Ray went down with a shoulder injury against Calgary on Aug. 23, the Argos came out on the wrong end of a 35-14 score. One week later in Collaros’ second career start and first in a six-game stretch, the result saw Toronto manage to score just nine points in a loss to the Alouettes.

Next week, however, he bounced back with a 336-yard passing day – his 2013 season-high – and two touchdowns while running in another to lead his offence to a 37-point performance and guide the Argos to a win in Montreal.

Your franchise quarterback must be able to handle and comeback from rough outings and Collaros proved he has that ability.

The signing of Collaros makes a lot of sense when you look at the ages of the other playmakers the Ticats have in place. Starting in order of youngest to oldest of the main weapons on Hamilton’s offence: Collaros 25, Greg Ellingson 25, CJ Gable 26, Bakari Grant 26, Sam Giguere 28 and Andy Fantuz 30. It’s a group that is young and will develop and grow together for years to come.

Collaros’ age, combined with his skill set and experience as a starter, albeit just a handful of games, was obviously enough to convince Ticats head coach and general manager Kent Austin that he could be the man behind centre for the Ticats and a top quarterback in the league for years to come.

Under Austin’s tutelage, based on his history of developing and getting the most out of his quarterbacks, Collaros will only improve and flourish.

Collaros moving from Toronto to Hamilton signals the start of a new chapter in the long history of the Battle of Ontario.