Laval’s Arnaud Desjardins headlines Canadian QB underclassmen trio invited to 2023 CFL Combine

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

A trio of Canadian quarterbacks will get a chance to make an early impression on pro scouts after being invited to attend the CFL Combine in Edmonton as underclassmen.

Laval’s Arnaud Desjardins, Ottawa’s Ben Maracle, and Alberta’s Eli Hetlinger will be taking part in the league’s annual prospect showcase from March 22 to 26 despite not being eligible for selection in the 2023 CFL Draft. Maracle will be part of the 2024 draft class, Desjardin is eligible in 2025, and Hetlinger cannot be selected until 2026.

Desjardins was named a first-team All-Canadian in 2022, his first season as a full-time starter. The Montreal native led the country with 20 passing touchdowns in eight regular-season games while tossing just four interceptions, completing 73 percent of his passes for 2,555 yards. He would go on to lead the Rouge et Or to a Vanier Cup victory over the Saskatchewan Huskies, going 27-of-36 for 396 yards in the national championship.

Maracle has quarterbacked the Gee-Gees for three seasons, posting career numbers in 2022. The two-time Academic All-Canadian from Tyendinaga, Ont. completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 1,411 yards, nine touchdowns, and two interceptions through seven games, helping Ottawa advance to the OUA semi-final.

Hetlinger was the third-ranked Canadian quarterback in the 2020 recruiting class. After redshirting in 2021, he seized the starting job for the Golden Bears this past season, completing 61.7 percent of his throws for 1,396 yards, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions in just five games. The Edmonton native also added three scores on the ground.

The CFL has long invited underclassmen quarterbacks to throw during Combine drills in years when not enough eligible pivots have earned an invitation. However, the expansion of the event in 2023 has increased both the number of quarterbacks needed and their relative importance. In addition to the standard testing and competitive drills from years past, this year’s Combine will include three days of organized practice with full team periods, meaning that each invited signal caller will get plenty of reps operating an offence.

The invited quarterbacks can also participate in physical testing if desired, though their results will not be officially recorded until their year of eligibility.

Concordia’s Olivier Roy will be the lone draft-eligible quarterback in attendance. He also participated in the event last year in Toronto as an underclassman and helped to spell off the arm of Waterloo’s Tre Ford, who became the first quarterback selected in the first round of the CFL Draft since 1980.

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