Paul LaPolice looking forward to Jeremiah Masoli taking ‘ownership’ of Redblacks’ offence

Photo courtesy: Ottawa Redblacks

Ottawa Redblacks’ head coach Paul LaPolice has many reasons to be excited about the start of training camp on May 15, one of which is working with his new franchise quarterback.

“I’ve got a note on my board: ‘How quickly can we get Jeremiah Masoli to take control of our offence?’ How quickly can he be comfortable, like, ‘This is my stuff.’ It’s all the Redblacks’ stuff, but he has to take ownership over it,” said LaPolice in a recent videoconference.

“Will Arndt — our quarterback coach — and myself and the other offensive coaches, we’re looking forward to how we just sit in the room (with Masoli). ‘Hey, what’d you like today? What don’t you want to run? What are you most comfortable with that we put in yesterday?’ So that’s the process I think we’re most excited to go through.”

Masoli completed 69.4 percent of his passes in 2021 for 2,445 yards, ten touchdowns, and six interceptions. He replaced an injured Dane Evans in the Grey Cup and came close to ending Hamilton’s 21-year championship drought, completing 80 percent of his passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception against the league’s stingiest defence.

LaPolice has taken elements of the scheme that made Masoli so successful over his nine-year run in Steeltown and is looking to mesh them with his existing playbook.

“We’ve added things that he’s been successful with in Hamilton to our system. Now we have to kind of figure out what he does best within his stuff and within our stuff,” said the veteran coach.

“It’s sometimes hard when you’re new with a new quarterback. You want to build systems for them and there’s that relationship between the play call and the person and what they’re most comfortable with, so I’m looking forward to that challenge.”

Redblacks’ general manager Shawn Burke knows Masoli well having spent the past 15 years with the Ticats in a number of roles. He was Hamilton’s director of football operations when the club acquired Masoli via trade from Edmonton and watched him ascend from the practice roster to becoming an East Division all-star.

“We’ve both grown and developed in this business together. I’ve seen the strides he’s taken. Jeremiah came up two weekends ago to get settled here. He understands what it is to be a pro and be ready as you head into the season, especially with his life stage with family and the kids being up here and whatnot,” said Burke.

“I’m just excited to see him run with a new opportunity. I know he feels engaged here and sometimes change is one of the most difficult things, but at the same time one of the most refreshing and rewarding things, so we’re excited to see him run with that.”

The Redblacks recorded a league-worst 2,725 passing yards last season with Matt Nichols, Dominique Davis, Caleb Evans, Devlin Hodges, and Taryn Christion taking turns under centre.

Masoli is now the undisputed starter in the nation’s capital as well as the face of their franchise. If he is successful in 2022, it’s almost impossible to imagine the Redblacks finishing at the bottom of the East Division standings for a third-straight season.

“We know he’s got talent. We know he’s got tools,” said LaPolice. “Everybody’s said so many great things about the guy and how great he is as a teammate, how hardworking he is, how great he is. We’ve had great conversations and he comes as advertised.”

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.