May 30, 2014

Pivotal Battles: Key jockeying to take place at QB position Staff

TORONTO — The most important position in the CFL will once again be the focus for many teams as training camps open across the country this weekend.

With clubs looking for either stability at the starting spot or assurance at the backup position, breaks down the storylines under centre.

Travis Lulay is the clear starter in BC with nobody else challenging him for the top spot but shoulder surgery in the off-season has given Wally Buono a reason to go out and find an insurance policy.

Enter Kevin Glenn from the Ottawa REDBLACKS. Glenn has been a backup in the league for the last few years and every time he has been asked to fill in for a starter he has failed to dissapoint.

It is clear that heading into camp Glenn is the leader for the #2 spot on the depth chart but he will need to fight off John Beck at camp to earn the spot behind Lulay.

Armed with the best problem a team could have, the Calgary Stampeders have made a habit of bringing in multiple quarterbacks that can start and they will do it again this year.

In 2013 training camp would begin with Drew Tate as the clear #1 but due to injuries in the pivot ranks Tate, Glenn, and Bo Levi Mitchell would all see time on the field and a quarterback race would begin.

With Glenn out, the Stampeders will enter camp with two quarterbacks poised to snatch the starting role.

Tate, 755 yards and 5 touchdowns in seven games last year, comes in as the favourite after being named the starter before training camp in the last two years. His injuries are a concern though as he has been unable to stay on the field, leading the way for Mitchell.

Mitchell, 1,156 yards and 10 touchdowns in eleven games in 2013, is the challenger after coming in as the third quarterback on the depth chart in 2013.

The Esks are hoping that they have found their quarterback after an open competition highlighted their 2013 camp.

The competition would see Matt Nichols challenge for the spot but would suffer an injury in pre-season action that would keep him out the entire year. It paved the way for Mike Reilly to take an uncontested hold on the starting spot.

Reilly, 4,207 yards and 24 touchdowns last year, now comes in as the starting quarterback for the Eskimos and looks to solidify that position in camp.

The spot is his to lose in training camp with Nichols returning from his injury and hoping to get his career back on track.

Breathing down Nichols’ back however is Jonathan Crompton who is looking to steer some of the attention back towards him in the race.

Questions about the long-term plan at quarterback were beginning to surface in the off-season but it all come to an end just before free agency.

It came in the form of the signing of former Argonauts backup quarterback Zach Collaros and the release of veteran Henry Burris.

Dan LeFevour, who not only saw meaningful reps but had his own package in the Hamilton playbook, enters training camp as the backup but looking to establish himself if not for the Ticats, for another team when he enters free agency next.

Collaros is coming off of an impressive year in Toronto where he was forced into action due to an injury to Ricky Ray. While in, Collaros would throw for 2,316 yards and 14 touchdowns while running for 246 yards and 5 touchdowns. That performance would make him one of the most desirable quarterbacks in the off-season and the Ticats were happy to have him.

The Anthony Calvillo era is officially over in Montreal but who’s era is next?

The Alouettes will enter their training camp without Calvillo in the lineup for the first time since 1998.

Former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith joined the Alouettes midway through the 2013 season as a backup plan in their search for a quarterback after an injury to Calvillo. In seven games last year Smith would throw for 884 yards and 9 touchdowns as he slowly took the starting job away from Tanner Marsh.

Now Smith will enter his first Montreal training camp and will be the favourite to win the starting role. He will have competition though as Marsh — 972 yards and 3 touchdowns in five games last year — looks to take a role that was originally his when Calvillo was injured and Josh Neiswander was ineffective.  Also in the mix is former Winnipeg Blue Bomber pivot Alex Brink.

The battle will continue throughout training camp but either way there will be some big shoes to fill for the starting quarterback that is ultimatly asked to replace a sure hall of famer.

The Ottawa REDBLACKS would use their first off-season to load up on veteran talent and in the process would solve any issues they may have had at quarterback.

When the Hamilton Tiger-Cats released Henry Burris to sign Zach Collaros it was an opportunity for the REDBLACKS to get a quarterback with a winning history. The REDBLACKS would sign Burris which gave them instant experience behind centre.

There is no question that Burris — 4,925 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2013 — is the starter for the REDBLACKS as he looks to prove those that say he has aged beyond his skill are wrong.

This leaves Thomas DeMarco as the real story in camp as it relates to quarterbacks.

DeMarco, another Expansion Draft addition, is looking to take a year under Burris to prove that he is the long-term solution in Ottawa.

If you are looking for stability at quarterback look no further than Saskatchewan where the Riders will be looking to Darian Durant to provide a repeat.

Durant received a contract extension from the Roughriders in the off-season after guiding his team to the Grey Cup at Mosaic. There is no moving Durant from the starting post but behind him is a different story.

Last year the Riders had some security behind Durant with Drew Willy serving as a solid backup when Durant found injury trouble.

Now, Willy is the main man in Winnipeg and the backup position is up for grabs as a number of quarterbacks will be fighting for the spot.

Tino Sunseri is the incumbent as he will hope to move to the backup role after spending 2013 in the third spot. Meanwhile Seth Doege and Adam Weber are two well-known NCAA Division-I quarterbacks with no CFL experience looking to find a spot on the team.

There is absolutely no doubt who the no. 1 gunslinger is in Toronto.  Ricky Ray is a future hall of famer and will once again lead the Double Blue come opening day despite running into some injury issues in 2013.

Where the real battle sits is at the no. 2 spot.

Last year the backup role was a two man race in training camp with Collaros and Trevor Harris battling. In the end, Harris would come out on top of the battle but during the season Collaros would take jump over him on the depth chart.

With Collaros now in Hamilton the backup role is Harris’ spot to lose.

Mitchell Gale and Josh Portis return after entering camp with the Argos last season and Casey Paschall will try to impress the coaching staff in his first go-around with Toronto.

If Saskatchewan, BC and Toronto are the picture of stability at quarterback the Bombers can be considered the opposite with a rotating door of players in the past few seasons.

For four years the Bombers would come into training camp with true #1 quarterback in Buck Pierce but injury troubles would make the backup quarterback position one of the most important on the team.

Pierce would only play 28 games in his three full seasons with Winnipeg, he was traded in 2013 to BC, as the team would lean on their backups.

Justin Goltz and Max Hall would take over last year with Hall becoming the starter by the end of the year but the Bombers still seeking consistency at the position.

They hope to have found it in Drew Willy who was added to the team in the off-season in a trade with the Riders. The Bombers are giving Willy the reigns in 2014 as he will be the starting quarterback for the Bombers and will try to prove that he can truly be a starter.

 The backups may still be important though as Hall is alone in the no. 2 spot with Justin Goltz gone and if Willy struggles Hall may be in again.