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Schultz: New blood at quarterback bodes well for CFL

Chris Schultz

7/31/2013 12:14:21 PM

The quality of the Canadian Football League when it comes to on-field play is in the quality of the position of quarterback. If both teams competing to win both have great quarterbacks there is a distinct possibility you will see a good game. An entertaining game. And in the extreme opposite if you have two quarterbacks that just don't have it; well then it becomes a punting battle and a collection of two plays and little entertainment value. Last week, Week 5 of CFL football was an important one for the league in that there were some talented players identified at that No. 1 position - quarterback.

It started on Thursday with Montreal beating Edmonton 32-27. Much of the conversation was about how the game ended and was managed by Edmonton but lost in that controversy was how well Mike Reilly played in the second half. I have never been benched in my career but can only imagine how difficult it must have been to be benched then have to come back and play. To be honest I thought head coach Kavis Reed had made a mistake in taking Reilly out and putting in Jonathan Crompton followed by Kerry Joseph. I am a big believer in working through problems and not avoiding them and as I expressed on TV it seemed as if he was rolling the dice to see what he could come up with. And when you looked at Reilly's body language on the sidelines you could see he was pretty much devastated at being taken out. Well Coach "K" was right and I was wrong because the time on the sidelines helped Reilly immensely. In the second half he played significantly better saving the best for the last and taking the Eskimos the length of the field and giving them an opportunity to win. Yes he messed it up with 10 seconds to go but you saw a genuine mental toughness from Mike Reilly that creates a new optimism going into the game Friday night back home in Edmonton against Hamilton. Good job, Mike Reilly.

The new infusion of quarterback blood continued Friday night as Calgary manhandled Winnipeg. I thought Justin Goltz was okay. He faded a bit in the second half but did some good things - an example being the two touchdown passes to Jade Etienne. It may be worth the risk to start Goltz one more time when they play BC that first Monday in August. Still what Goltz did was in no comparison to the spectacular - and I mean spectacular - play of Bo Levi Mitchell with Calgary. His final mathematical accumulation was incredible. 29 completions in 33 attempts, that is 88 per cent. 376 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He competed his first seven passes for 118 yards and ended the game going 16-for-16 for 183 yards. His quarterback rating was 144.4. Perfection is 156.3. But here is the most shocking number. Mitchell is 23 years old. All of a sudden he in no longer a "REDBLACKS" consideration, he is a starting quarterback for the Stampeders' consideration. The only word of caution is that Winnipeg's pass defence has regressed to an all-time low. The week before it was Ricky Ray going 19-of-20 for 286 yards so you do wonder if Mitchell was at the right place and right time. Calgary plays Saskatchewan on Aug. 9 and if the Stampeders decide to see what they have in Mitchell that night it will be a good indicator. Back on July 26, 2002 Ricky Ray had a similar opening day going 21-of-28 for 277 yards and four touchdowns. Bo's game last Friday night was more impressive.

The third game of the week saw Saskatchewan beat Hamilton 32-20. Good game for young quarterback Drew Willy as his offence did score 32 points. That's somewhere better than Justin Goltz but not near Bo Levi Mitchell. Still, a solid game. This actually was a trap game for the Riders. They won 37-0 over Hamilton the week before, and were now on the road playing in a college stadium with a back-up quarterback. Hamilton should have won that game but they didn't because the Riders avoided the Trap. Why are the Saskatchewan Roughriders 5-0? Ben Heenan going from right guard to play so effectively at right tackle is one reason. Craig Butler playing linebacker with excellence is another and Dan Clark from the Regina junior program playing tight end when he is not playing offensive tackle is a third reason. With Kory Sheets playing well there is only one thing the Riders need to avoid: injuries. Darian Durant has missed a game but the Riders have remained very healthy so far. Is that skill or luck? Probably a bit of both. Don't buy your Grey Cup tickets yet Rider faithful, just make sure your credit card is paid off.

In Toronto...Zach Collaros, W0W! 11-of-13 in the first half and 21-of-25 for 253 yards; no interceptions and three touchdowns. But so much more than the numerical success was his ability to make positive plays out of nothing or potential disaster. He did have a little Doug Flutie in him in his ability to move and avoid and run to throw. Personally I did not see this coming but all of a sudden the Ottawa REDBLACKS have to give consideration to Zach Collaros being part of their organization. I mean you just can't teach some of the things he did in terms of elusive movement to anybody. You either have it or you don't. The 38-12 win for Toronto was so significant in many ways. Two new players with Jamie Robinson going from cornerback to linebacker. Josh Gatlin playing for the first time at cornerback for Robinson and Curtis Steele playing running back for Chad Kackert. Wilth the bye week pending and a game in Montreal, Toronto is positioned well come September football.

In baseball it is the pitching, in basketball it is the point guard. With hockey it would be the goalie and football the quarterback. Each of the big four team sports have a position of importance that when appropriately filled with a singular highly talented player you have a much greater chance to have a winning program. And the entertainment value of the game is obviously better. Now who knows how many more years a Bo Levi Mitchell or a Zach Collaros will play. How many more opportunities will Justin Goltz or Drew Willy get? But they are out there ready to play again and in all likelihood perform at a high level given that opportunity.

Week 5 of the 2013 season was an important one for the league. You could see into the future, and the future looked pretty good.