Quar­ter­back po­si­tion fairly sta­ble across CFL

Manziel adds wrin­kle to league where Reilly, Ray and Mitchell have dom­i­nated

Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS - BILL BEA­CON

Just when Jeremiah Ma­soli thought he could go into a CFL sea­son con­fi­dent in his role as start­ing quar­ter­back, in swept Johnny Foot­ball to steal the spot­light.

While it would be a sur­prise if coach June Jones doesn’t hand Ma­soli the ball when the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats open the reg­u­lar sea­son Satur­day in Cal­gary, there will likely be more fans with their eyes on backup Johnny Manziel.

The 25-year-old, who won a Heis­man Tro­phy as a fresh­man at Texas A&M in 2012 but flamed out as an NFL quar­ter­back amid re­ports of at­ti­tude prob­lems and off-field par­ty­ing, signed with the Ti­cats just be­fore train­ing camp, vow­ing to get his life in or­der and res­ur­rect his foot­ball ca­reer.

“I be­lieve this is the best op­por­tu­nity for me mov­ing for­ward and I’m ea­ger for what the fu­ture holds,” Manziel posted on Twit­ter.

The Ti­cats opened the 2017 sea­son 0-8 with Zach Col­laros be­hind cen­tre be­fore Jones took over and made Ma­soli his starter.

Ma­soli went 6-4 the rest of the way and, while it didn’t get Hamil­ton into the play­offs, it at least raised hope that the quar­ter­back po­si­tion was set­tled go­ing into 2018.

Manziel has at least pro­vided a pre-sea­son talk­ing point for a league that is mostly sta­ble at the start­ing quar­ter­back po­si­tion.

Mike Reilly is back to de­fend his out­stand­ing player award in Ed­mon­ton, Bo Levi Mitchell still rules in Cal­gary and Ricky Ray re­turns for a 17th CFL sea­son with Toronto. Also back are Matt Ni­chols in Win­nipeg (though he starts the sea­son on the in­jured list) and Trevor Har­ris in Ot­tawa, while veteran Drew Willy and Jonathon Jen­nings are the favourites to start in Mon­treal and B.C., re­spec­tively.

It is only in Saskatchewan where a choice must be made be­tween Col­laros and Cana­dian Bran­don Bridge.

Here’s a look at each team’s quar­ter­back sit­u­a­tion:

B.C. Lions: Veteran Travis Lu­lay took over when Jen­nings in­jured his shoul­der four games into 2017 and did well un­til he suf­fered a torn ACL on Sept. 8. The Lions missed the play­offs for the first time in 20 years and had the West Di­vi­sion’s worst of­fence. Af­ter con­sid­er­ing re­tire­ment, Lu­lay opted to re­turn for a 10th sea­son and will likely be Jen­nings’ backup again, at least to start the sea­son.

Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos: Reilly started all 18 games and had a ca­reer sea­son with a team-record 5,830 pass­ing yards and 30 touch­down passes. It was a sec­ond straight 5,000-yard cam­paign, and he also led the league with 12 rush­ing TDs. The 38-year-old Kevin Glenn, who started for Saskatchewan last year, is the new backup. Glenn has been a mem­ber of all nine CFL teams. Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers: Mitchell has been a rock in Cal­gary, miss­ing only one game in six sea­sons. Last year the 28-year-old led them to a 13-4-1 record and first place over­all, only to lose a sec­ond Grey Cup game in a row. Trusty backup An­drew Buck­ley left for med school, mak­ing Ricky Stanzi the new No. 2.

Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers: Af­ter re­bound­ing from a 5-13 cam­paign to go 10-8 and make the play­offs for the first time in three years, Riders boss Chris Jones opted to ac­quire Col­laros and re­lease Glenn, who played 17 games. Then he de­clared the start­ing job open go­ing into camp. That gives Bran­don Bridge a shot at be­com­ing a rare Cana­dian starter. The Toronto na­tive has one start in three CFL sea­sons.

Win­nipeg Blue Bombers: The 31-year-old Ni­chols is com­ing off a solid sea­son with 4,472 pass­ing yards and 28 TDs, but in­jured his knee dur­ing camp and is out four to six weeks. Rookie Chris Strev­eler will start the opener. Veteran Dar­ian Du­rant signed in Jan­uary only to re­tire just be­fore camp. That came af­ter Do­minique Davis was re­leased and Dan LeFevour re­tired.

Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats: Ma­soli had de­cent stats last sea­son — 3,177 yards and 15 TDs — in 12 ap­pear­ances, while also rush­ing for 446 yards. The 29-year-old is en­ter­ing his sixth sea­son with Hamil­ton. Now he has ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion with Manziel on the bench.

Toronto Arg­onauts: Ricky Ray re­bounded from two in­jury-plagued sea­sons to reach the 5,000-yard mark for a fourth time and lead the Ar­gos to an un­ex­pected Grey Cup. Coach Marc Trest­man didn’t hes­i­tate to name Ray the starter again when the 38-year-old opted to re­turn for what should be his fi­nal sea­son. Highly re­garded James Franklin was ac­quired from Ed­mon­ton as in­surance.

Ot­tawa Red­blacks: Trevor Har­ris threw for 4,479 yards in only 15 games in his first sea­son as the starter af­ter Henry Bur­ris re­tired. But the 32-year-old will want a bet­ter start than the 1-6-1 open­ing that put Ot­tawa in an early hole last sea­son. The mo­bile Davis, af­ter three years in Win­nipeg, is the backup.

Mon­treal Alou­ettes: Matt Shiltz might be the quar­ter­back of the fu­ture, but new coach Mike Sher­man may pre­fer veteran Drew Willy, at least to start the sea­son. Willy has a de­pend­able if un­spec­tac­u­lar 52 games of CFL ex­pe­ri­ence over seven sea­sons. He joined Mon­treal dur­ing the 2017 sea­son and played six times. The team signed veteran Jeff Mathews this week.

MUR­RAY McCORMICK

Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers quar­ter­backs Zach Col­laros, left, and Bran­don Bridge are in the most ob­vi­ous bat­tle in the CFL to win a No. 1 starter’s job head­ing into train­ing camp, and on the eve of the team’s reg­u­lar sea­son opener, coach Chris Jones still hasn’t said who has won.

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