Ma­soli breaks NFL com­ple­tion records

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DREW ED­WARDS

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 Cana­dian Foot­ball League 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 work­ing on his me­chan­ics, break­ing down film over the phone with for­mer Hamil­ton of­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor 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 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 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.

It takes pa­tience, a lot of dis­ci­pline and Jeremiah has put the work in. KENT AUSTIN HEAD COACH OF THE HAMIL­TON TIGER-CATS

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