This was the scouting report on draftinsiders.net regarding Ticats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli as he finished his senior college season at Ole Miss.
“Possesses an average arm. Marginally accurate and misjudges passes. Will force the ball into covered receivers down the field,” they wrote. “Masoli is a better athlete than quarterback at this point.”
Last Saturday, Masoli completed 23 straight passes to set a new CFL record. After coming into 2015 with a completion percentage of 45 per cent, the 27-year-old is third in the league at 73.3 per cent.
So what’s changed? How has Masoli morphed from a marginal quarterback prospect with accuracy issues – he completed just over 57 per cent in college – to one of the most efficient passers in the league?
“It’s fundamentals – there are so many things with quarterbacking, it’s crazy,” Masoli says. “Any little thing can change your throw, change the velocity, change how the ball comes out.”
Masoli, a tireless worker who is often the last player off the practice field, spent this last off-season diligently working on his mechanics, breaking down film over the phone with former Hamilton offensive coordinator Tommy Condell and working with quarterback coach Will Hewlett in California.
“We would just lock ourselves in the warehouse and start working,” Masoli says. “Filming our mechanics on the field, then watching it in slow motion afterwards.”
During his previous stints as the starter, Masoli was often inclined to pull the ball down and take off if receivers weren’t immediately open. Or worse, he would force things with a tough throw into a tight window. But in many ways, his development path mirrors the one followed by teammate Zach Collaros, who was also thought of as a dual-threat guy before becoming one of the CFL’s most accurate passers last season.
“For me, watching Zach develop – his feet, his decisions – I transferred that over to my mindset, understanding that you can trust in the pocket and trust in the routes instead of trying to make it happen all on your own,” Masoli said.
Masoli is now anticipating how and when receivers will emerge from their breaks, throwing the ball to a spot instead of waiting to make sure they are open – a split second of extra time that professional quarterbacks don’t have.
Hamilton head coach Kent Austin, a former CFL quarterback himself, says improving accuracy is one of the most difficult things for a quarterback to do.
“You can work on fundamentals, decision-making speed, recognition of defences, putting your eyes where they are supposed to be,” said Austin. “But it takes a lot of patience, a lot of discipline and Jeremiah has put the work in. Attitude and preparation does a lot for your physical game.”
The Ticat offence is notorious for its complexity, requiring the quarterback and the receivers to make adjustments based on the coverage their facing. But Masoli has embraced the challenge and Austin has rewarded him with more responsibility.
“The more he plays, the more I get a feel for what he likes, what he’s good at and where he’s most comfortable,” Austin said. “Then we try and keep him in that groove.”
With his pure passing numbers on the rise – he’s second in the CFL in passing yards – Masoli has all but shed the dual-threat label. He’s run the ball just nine times for 34 yards this season – less than Toronto’s virtually immobile Ricky Ray.
“All athletic quarterbacks want to avoid the stigma that they are a running back that can throw,” Masoli said. “It’s almost become the opposite problem: ‘what’s up man, you don’t want to take off anymore?’”
It’s rare for a quarterback to dramatically improve his accuracy after becoming a professional but Masoli has found a way – in spite of what the college scouts predicted.
“When a quarterback starts being efficient – and I’m not just talking about myself – it’s an indication that he’s taken that step,” Masoli said.