Who Backs the Zach Attack

Zach CollarosOver the course of the next few weeks, as the Ticats open training camp and start the preseason, we will analyze how each positional group looks heading into the upcoming season. We start today with the marquee position on the team: quarterback.

One thing is for certain: Zach Collaros is the team’s undisputed starter.

After signing as a free agent prior to last season, Collaros was handed the reins to the Tiger-Cats’ offense, so the idea that he is the unquestioned No. 1 should not be much of a surprise.

However, injuries forced Collaros to miss five full games last season, and in that time Dan LeFevour showed the kind of skills that made some Tiger-Cat fans, myself included, wonder who should start between the two when Collaros was healthy. But a season-ending injury to LeFevour paved the way for Collaros’ return, and the potential quarterback controversy never ensued. The former Cincinnati Bearcats’ return on Labour Day jumped started the Ticats’ season, and the team once again ended the season by playing in the Grey Cup.

Any possible quarterback controversy was further ended — if it did not end with the Collaros leading the Ticats back to the championship game— when LeFevour signed this winter with the Montreal Alouettes.

The Ticats are without a doubt Collaros’ team, but should the unthinkable happen, and Collaros is once again forced to miss time, there is no LeFevour-esque player ready to step up.

The team opted against signing a veteran backup this offseason — despite some pleas that the team bring back Kevin Glenn — and will head into the season with a group of very inexperienced signal callers behind Collaros.

Jeremiah Masoli used a masterful performance in Hamilton’s first preseason game last year to catapult himself into the No. 2 position on the Ticats’ depth chart. He was the first off the bench when Collaros was injured in Week 2 against Edmonton and started the following week’s game, a 10-7 loss to Calgary. He is the only quarterback on the Tiger-Cats roster other than Collaros to have any in-game CFL experience.

Jacory Harris and Jeff Mathews are the other two players who will be given looks in training camp, and one of them may be able to pass Masoli on the depth chart. Harris spent all last season on Hamilton’s practice roster after spending the previous year on Edmonton’s practice roster. Mathews signed in January after a stellar collegiate career at Cornell. For those uninitiated, Cornell is the former school of current Ticats receiver Luke Tasker and where Kent Austin coached prior to becoming Hamilton’s head man in 2013.

Both players are short on production, but long on potential. Harris went to the University of Miami, a school known for producing their fair share of pro football players, and Mathews left Cornell as the Ivy League’s all-time passing yards leader. Both play a style suited for the CFL game, but they will need to show what they can do on the field before anyone gets too excited about their prospects.

If any team were to lose their starting quarterback for a significant stretch of the season, they would be in trouble. That might go doubly for the Ticats. If Collaros goes down again, backing him up is a group of quarterbacks that are mostly complete unknowns at the professional level.

The battle to see who backs up Collaros will be one of the training camp competitions worth watching.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.