Ticats quarterback situation full of unknowns

Zach Collaros is the Hamilton Tiger-Cats starting quarterback, unless he’s not ready to be. In which case, it could be Jeremiah Masoli who led the team to one playoff win last season, then played spectacularly in almost orchestrating another. Or perhaps it’s Jeff Mathews, who was the No. 2, then the starter until he suffered a season-ending concussion.

“It’s weird situation, we have all kinds of different things going on,” agreed Masoli. “It’s going to be fun, either way.”

Masoli appeared to take what passed for first teams reps on Tuesday, the first day of a Ticats mini-camp filled with mostly first-year players, many of whom are absorbing information via firehose. On Wednesday, it was Mathews who got the first crack at most drills and the extremely limited team sessions.

Head coach Kent Austin wasn’t willing to offer a sneak peak at the depth chart.

“I won’t rank them right now. When we get into camp we’ll do some things differently that meet the skill sets of one guy better than the other guy and do some other things that meet the skill set of the other guy,” Austin said. “We just have to see which direction that goes based on how we want to enter the season with our philosophy offensively.”

Let’s parse those words a little. Masoli is a dual-threat guy and the Ticats essentially rebuilt the offensive scheme around him in the post-season, producing the thrilling win over Toronto and a 30-for-42, 349 yard passing performance in the East Final loss. Mathews, meanwhile, is the prototypical pocket passer who showed flashes of potential in his five starts in relief after Collaros’ torn ACL, including two wins.

A concussion suffered in week 17 against the Redblacks ended Mathews’ season and left him struggling with the after-effects. He’s fully recovered now and has to come to terms with insidious nature of the game’s scariest injury.

“As long as I’m able to make an informed decision and I have the power to make that decision, I’m fine with it,” Mathews said. “Maybe my perspective changes in ten years. But at this point, with all the research that’s come out I think all players know the risks.”

There are two other quarterbacks at mini-camp as well: third-year man Jacory Harris, who started one game last season, and newcomer Jake Waters, who was signed earlier this month after a stint on Hamilton’s negotiation list.

The graduating class at Waters’ Iowa high school featured exactly 43 students and he received exactly zero scholarship offers. Instead, he went junior college for two years, won a national title and then chose Kansas State when the big schools finally came calling. He set a bunch of school records, then got a shot with two NFL teams.

He had to look up Hamilton on a map and study the rules before he could get into a CFL playbook. But given his circuitous route to, well, any kind of football career he seems perfectly comfortable as the underdog guy in the underdog league.

“It’s been crazy – I didn’t think I was even going to get a chance to play college football,” he said. “Some guys get in that NFL or nothing mentality and I just want to play.”

There’s one more level of complexity to consider: what happens after this season. Of the five quarterbacks on the roster, just two – Masoli and Waters – are under contract for 2017. Collaros, Mathews and Harris are all in their option years and could be free agents come next February.

Masoli signed a contract extension in January, re-upping in Hamilton for two more seasons. It was something of a surprise, given the dearth of experienced quarterbacks in the CFL and his stellar performance when it mattered most in 2015. His Hamilton trajectory has been anything but linear, including a stint on the practice roster last season.

“I’ve had a wide spectrum of experiences but I’m just thankful for them,” Masoli said. “Football is not just a game, it teaches you life lessons.”

Some things, however, remain unknowable. Like who will be the Ticats’ week one starter.

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
Drew Edwards
Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1524 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

20 Comments on Ticats quarterback situation full of unknowns

  1. The guy with the least experience being Waters is probably the guy with the skillset that most closely matches Collaros whom the offence is designed around. This will be interesting.

  2. Paul Garner // April 28, 2016 at 7:24 am //

    Well “had to look up on the map where Hamilton was” – typical U.S. College graduate. I’m assuming he had to look up Hamilton and not Canada. Yes, son! There really is a world outside of the United States.

  3. Chopper11 // April 28, 2016 at 9:15 am //

    I say Massoli will start the season, and rightfully so.

  4. I am not sure if you would want to bother but don’t the TiCats own the rights to Manziel? His Defense lawyer says the charges are a sham and he could get a deal from the DA if he agrees to attend counseling. A year or two at Hamilton could be good for both sides. I would think though the CFL addiction team would assign him a counselor and a non drinking team mate to room with. Although the clubs of Toronto could be too much of a temptation like that Mayor that just died.

  5. Quick Paul Garner name all the Hamiltons in the major English speaking countries?

  6. Not trying to start a QB controversy… But… If Masoli plays 2016 at same level as he did from 3rd quarter vs. Argos until end of game vs. RedBlacks… Not sure how Zach gets his job back…

    Guess this is a good problem to have…

    Just saying…

    Cheers… Snake

    • Snake – I usually agree with you 100% but Masoli was 4th string when Collaros was starting for a reason. If Collaros does not get hurt, we would likely be defending Grey Cup champions.

      • Zugerfan // April 28, 2016 at 6:19 pm //

        Mark. We didn’t get to the Cup but none of that was Masoli’s fault.

        • I agree it was not his fault but he simply does not have the talent of Collaros and the offence had to be written to suit his strengths which took away from what Austin and Condell are used to doing. Regardless, I will be cheering for whomever is behind centre.

    • Zugerfan // April 28, 2016 at 6:17 pm //

      I agree Snake. The kid sure did enough to earn a shot at the starting job in my book.

  7. Paul Garner // April 28, 2016 at 11:08 am //

    Your point is well taken because the two that come to mind without looking anything up are Hamilton, Ohio and Hamilton, Bermuda. But in the context of a CFL Football franchise I would think most College Grads or even those that didn’t finish their studies would have some idea where Hamilton, Ontario is. If we are to say that Hamilton, Ontario is comparable size to say – Albany, New York, Birmingham, Alabama, Fresno, California, Little Rock Arkansas or Columbus, Ohio, I venture to say that most McMaster Grads would have an idea where those cities are in the U.S. without having to search like it was some far away land

  8. @Paul Garner… I get what you’re saying… I spend my winters in Florida and have met many well educated Americans (many of whom our now my friends) who have never heard of Hamilton… But they have heard of Niagara Falls… So I just tell them I am 45 minutes from the Falls…

    In fairness to them would you know where Billings, Montana or Montgomery, Alabama or Allentown, PA are? Would you need a map to locate these cities?

    Just saying…

    Cheers… Snake

  9. moncton ticats fan // April 28, 2016 at 11:56 am //

    Like Snake, we also winter in Florida, and have lots of good American friends, most of whom know very little about Canada. Most have a general sense of where Toronto is, or maybe Ottawa or Mtl, or even Nova Scotia (they have heard of the Bluenose). I share that we are about 1,000 miles east of Toronto, or about 600 east of Mtl., or about 40 miles from the N.S. border. Sometimes if I say we are about 300 miles north east of Bangor, Maine, they have a blank look on their face as they aren’t really too sure where Bangor is. Oh well, not much can be done about it I suppose. Most do say they enjoy Canadians, as they feel we have a different perspective on things. So if a player from the U.S. isn’t sure of where Hamilton is, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. As you might have heard, some Americans are thinking of moving to Canada if a certain presidential candidate is elected. None of this has to do with football though, which I’m impatiently waiting to get under way.

  10. Flying Wing // April 28, 2016 at 1:27 pm //

    I’ll always remember this line. We were in Alabama for a conference and at lunch the waitress asked “Where are y’all from?” We of course said Canada. And her reply was “Oh yeah Canada…I’ve heard of that” Great country but its all about USA USA and nobody else.

  11. Mikefrmthhammer // April 28, 2016 at 2:42 pm //

    I personally think WE would be the same under similar circumstances – those being, a very big powerful country which has a very big (physically but small population-wise) country as it’s neighbour. The risk is that one becomes totally absorbed by all of the information about your own country, and not having either the education or experience in dealing with someone from the other country. It should not be considered a slight, but an opportunity to educate, like Jake Waters was.

  12. @ Mark… Yeah I know… I have to agree with you… The Masoli pre: ESF vs. Argos was 4th string for a reason and did not deserve to start… But something changed after Austin benched him… And IF he continues to play like he did for 5 1/2 quarters then we have a real good problem with potentially two starters… But that’s a big IF…

    Cheers… Snake

  13. I didn’t know where Hamilton was until I started following the CFL. How many Canadians know where Wichita, Shreveport or Des Moines are?

    It’s not a slight, and doesn’t make one “USA, USA all the time.” When I travel in Europe, most people have no clue where Kansas or Missouri are, or Kansas City. I don’t think they’re dumb because of it.

    So give Waters a break. Instead of studying world geography, he was probably focused on winning college football games and his studies, then trying to make a pro career.

    • Jimmy Breslin // April 29, 2016 at 3:56 am //

      While I do know where Wichita (Kansas) Shreveport (LA) and Des Moines (Iowa) are located you raise a valid point, Americans certainly aren’t dumb because they’re generally clueless about Canada, they simply don’t care and their edu system doesn’t either. So, true, they turn out really good football players. As for their foreign policy successes ? well that’s a whole ‘nother story. Now back to football 🙂

  14. TC’s would have been in last year’s GC, even sans Collaros, if a) A DL does not drop a sure interception gift from Hank, and b) 2 DB’s don’t stumble and bumble on coverage and allow the winning TD to be scored. But that was last year and I’ve finally put my hankerchief away. This year one only has to read between the lines of what Austin and Collaros are saying and logically deduce that not only will Collaros miss the opening game, but perhaps several more. So start the guy who was last manned the helm, and did a fine job at that, Masoli. No QB dance needed here as the obvious is obvious and quite imperative that TC’s get off to a good start this season.

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