‘He just hops right up’: Chris Jones sees shades of Michael Reilly in Redblacks’ QB Dustin Crum

Graphic: 3DownNation (Photos: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com)

As he prepares for a critical Week 12 matchup with the Ottawa Redblacks, Edmonton Elks’ head coach Chris Jones is seeing shades of a familiar face in his opponent’s young quarterback.

Since taking over the Redblacks’ offence in Week 5, rookie Dustin Crum has become a sensation. He has completed 127-of-179 pass attempts for 1,418 yards, five touchdowns, and five interceptions but has contributed as much on the ground, rushing 56 times for 451 yards and four more scores.

“You look at him and that’s what I told the defence today, that guy, he runs extremely well,” Jones told the Edmonton media earlier this week.

“If you watch the Winnipeg game, he scrambled in the Winnipeg game and nobody was even close to him. I mean, he’s constantly on the move and he throws much better than what people give him credit for.”

Crum isn’t exactly a blazing speedster, having clocked a fairly pedestrian 4.75-second forty-yard dash at the 2022 NFL Combine. But his physical style and obvious toughness have challenged defences in a different way and inspired his team to several comeback attempts. That reminds Jones of another dual-threat quarterback with a reputation for taking shots.

“Look at the play down on the goal line when they hit him and he just hops right up and goes on. He’s a lot like Mike Reilly was.”

Reilly played 11 seasons in the CFL with the B.C. Lions and Edmonton, earning a sterling reputation as the league’s toughest player. He retired following the 2021 season as the 14th most prolific passer in CFL history, having thrown for 34,805 passing yards, 182 touchdowns, and 105 interceptions. However, he was also a reliable threat on the ground, running for 3,566 yards and 56 rushing touchdowns.

Jones spent two seasons coaching the Central Washington product in Edmonton, culminating in a Grey Cup victory in 2015. Following Jones’ departure for Saskatchewan, his former quarterback led the league in passing for three consecutive years.

At six-foot-three and 207 pounds, Crum boasts a similar frame to the future Hall of Famer though he has yet to find his level of success in the win column. After two stirring comebacks, Ottawa has dropped four straight winnable games and are now in desperation mode to keep pace in the playoff race.

Meanwhile, Edmonton finally recorded a victory last week thanks to their own young quarterback, Canadian Tre Ford. The second-year standout has completed 25-of-34 pass attempts for 363 yards, three touchdowns and a pick while running for 110 yards and a major in two starts. With 4.49 speed, he is a dynamic rushing threat that exceeds even Crum.

“We know what Tre can do, it’s no surprise, and even coming out of camp, it’s not like his numbers were that far behind what Taylor (Cornelius) had,” Jones said of his young starter, who rode the bench for the first eight weeks of the season.

“Tre’s done a real nice job of doing what we’ve asked him to do. He’s certainly a great athlete — not a good athlete, but a great athlete — so they have to contend with his feet.”

The two rushing QBs will clash at 7:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, as Edmonton looks to break their streak of 22 consecutive home losses.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.