Jones coy, but look for Col­laros to start at QB

Coach won’t name start­ing quar­ter­back, but all signs point to new guy in town

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - NEWS - MUR­RAY MCCORMICK mm­c­cormick@postmedia.com twit­ter.com/mur­raylp

Zach Col­laros looked com­fort­able at the podium while meet­ing with the me­dia Thurs­day.

It re­mains to be seen whether he’ll be com­pa­ra­bly at ease Fri­day when the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers play host to the Toronto Arg­onauts.

Chris Jones, the Rid­ers’ head coach and gen­eral man­ager, has yet to re­veal if Col­laros or Bran­don Bridge will start at quar­ter­back. The de­ci­sion is known in­ter­nally, but Jones isn’t mak­ing it pub­lic.

“We’ll see, we’ll see,” Jones said with a chuckle.

“They both work ex­tremely hard and our of­fen­sive staff has done a nice job with them. They know what their roles are and ex­actly how things are go­ing to work out.”

All signs point to Col­laros, who has taken the ma­jor­ity of rep­e­ti­tions with the first-team of­fence. That’s usu­ally an in­di­ca­tion of who will be the starter.

Col­laros has ap­proached his time with the Rid­ers with the mind­set that he’s the start­ing quar­ter­back.

“Like I’ve said the en­tire time, all quar­ter­backs should ap­proach it that way,” Col­laros said.

For­mer Rid­ers start­ing quar­ter­back Dar­ian Du­rant feels Col­laros will be a good fit for the team.

Du­rant, who spent 11 sea­sons with the Rid­ers be­fore be­ing traded to the Montreal Alou­ettes in Jan­uary of 2017, based that assess­ment on how Col­laros han­dled his time with the Hamil­ton TigerCats. Hamil­ton traded Col­laros to Saskatchewan in Jan­uary.

“Of course, Saskatchewan has a big­ger fan base, but Hamil­ton has al­ways been a tough place to play,” Du­rant told the Regina Leader-post’s Rob Van­stone. “The fans there are great and they can get loud. I have heard them get on their home team as well. He has been in a tough place and he has heard the boos and he has heard all of the cheers. He has ba­si­cally pre­pared him­self for what he’s go­ing into now.”

The 29-year-old Col­laros spent four sea­sons with the Tiger-cats, guid­ing them to the 2014 Grey Cup game. In 2015, he was on pace to win the league’s most out­stand­ing player award be­fore suf­fer­ing a sea­son-end­ing knee in­jury.

Col­laros strug­gled when he re­turned to Hamil­ton’s ac­tive ros­ter in 2016. He lost 12 con­sec­u­tive games over the 2016 and 2017 sea­sons be­fore be­ing re­placed by Jeremiah Ma­soli.

Du­rant feels Col­laros should be able to re­gain the form he showed in his early years with the TigerCats.

“Look at the tal­ent that he has of­fen­sively and look at that de­fence,” Du­rant said.

“Chris Jones has al­ways done a great job of hav­ing his de­fence ready to play. Zach has all the tools in place to have suc­cess.”

Du­rant be­came fa­mil­iar with Rider Na­tion dur­ing his ten­ure in Saskatchewan and there­fore ap­pre­ci­ates the ex­pec­ta­tions quar­ter­backs face.

“You go out there, you win, you have suc­cess, you’re ex­cit­ing the crowd, and it’s the best sta­dium ever — the best place ever,” Du­rant said. “The fans are just tremen­dous. You just have to stay lev­el­headed, be­cause there are go­ing to be tough times.”

Col­laros is look­ing for­ward to the good times, es­pe­cially when it comes to run­ning out of the tun­nel onto the Mo­saic Sta­dium turf. How­ever, there is an as­pect of that en­try that con­cerns Col­laros.

“With the mist, I’m al­ways kind of scared run­ning through that,” Col­laros said. “I’ve seen too many (in­stances) of cheer­lead­ers get­ting run over. Selfishly, I don’t want to trip over a cord. That would be aw­ful and that would be a TSN blooper for­ever.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited about (run­ning onto the field) … There’s no feel­ing quite like that, get­ting hyped up (and) the adrenalin. The first play, there’s al­ways a ton of adrenalin and then af­ter that, you’re just play­ing foot­ball again. You kind of tune ev­ery­thing else out.”

Rid­ers re­ceiver/cor­ner­back Duron Carter is im­pressed with how Col­laros has set­tled in with the Rid­ers.

“He was sling­ing it out there this week,” Carter said. “He’s an amaz­ing leader. He’s putting in the ex­tra time and get­ting ev­ery­body in­volved with ex­tra meet­ings. I can’t wait to get into the game with him.”

MARK TAY­LOR/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The team has not re­vealed whether Zach Col­laros will be the start­ing quar­ter­back for the Rid­ers Fri­day.

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