Collaros leads cast of stellar CFL backup quarterback performances in Week 5

TORONTO – Either several CFL teams are ganging up and trolling the Ottawa Redblacks, or the new team will have their choice of some decent quarterbacks in the expansion draft.

In a wacky Week 5, backup quarterbacks starred in three wins. Toronto Argonauts quarterback Zach Collaros completed the trifecta by leading the Argos to a surprise 38-12 win over the B.C. Lions on Tuesday night.

Collaros was accurate and solid in the win which pushed the Argonauts to the top of the CFL East Division standings. He also joined Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell and Saskatchewan’s Drew Willy in leading their teams to victories this week. In the case of Collaros and Mitchell, they were making their CFL debuts. You can also add Justin Goltz to the list of first-time starters in Week 5, though the lowly Winnipeg Blue Bombers lost to the Stampeders.

Mitchell put up one of the best CFL debuts ever in the Stamps’ win over the Blue Bombers. Mitchell completed 29-of-33 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns. On Tuesday, Collaros did his best to one-up him.

“He made a lot of plays for us,” Argonauts coach Scott Milanovich said. “The moment wasn’t too big for him. And that was against a very good defence.”

Collaros was filling in for Ricky Ray, who injured his knee in a Week 4 win over the Blue Bombers. After a timid start which included fumbling on the fourth play of the game, Collaros collected himself and had a standout first half which set the tone for the convincing win.

“You expect mistakes, but the good ones put them behind him. After that [fumble] he fell into a rhythm,” Milanovich said.

His first CFL touchdown pass wasn’t exactly pretty. Early in the second quarter, he threw a wobbler into double coverage that receiver Jason Barnes managed to hold on to. After that, it was a thing of beauty for the former Cincinnati Bearcat.

“The receivers really stepped up for him,” Milanovich said. “Barnes stole that ball. That was the turning point.”

Collaros finished the night 21-for-25 for 253 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 28 yards.

“[Collaros] has a great future. We had a lot of confidence in him and he showed why tonight,” Milanovich said.

Speaking of backups, Argonauts running back Curtis Steele wasn’t too shabby either filling in for Chad Kackert. Steele finished with 109 total yards and two touchdowns.

Earlier in Week 5, Willy helped keep the Roughriders a perfect 5-0 with a win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In his second career start, Willy completed 14-of-25 passes for 269 yards with three touchdowns. Goltz was 19-of-35 for 194 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Bombers.

It was an unusual week in which half the CFL’s teams used backup quarterbacks. But the results were solid, if not surprising.

If the trend continues, it looks like it could be good news for the Redblacks. Set to join the CFL in 2014, the team will get to select two current CFL quarterbacks in the Dec. 16 expansion draft. The Redblacks will get to select eight import and 16 non-import players. As per the expansion draft rules, the Redblacks can select two quarterbacks and each current CFL team can protect only one.

While the on-field results are great in the win column for these teams, the looming expansion draft poses a problem for teams in terms of development and their own future. Former CFL quarterback Matt Dunigan explains:

“It's a "Catch 22" situation for all the teams across the CFL. You want to develop your next quarterback, but if you do it this season, you expose him to the process and bang, he could be gone! That's why you have teams keeping four and five quarterbacks around camp this season expecting and anticipating the pillaging in December.”

It remains to be seen how much the backup quarterbacks get to strut their stuff beyond Week 5. The Argos don’t play again until Aug. 8, and Ray is expected to be ready. Buck Pierce should play for the Bombers in Week 6. The Stamps could have Drew Tate or Kevin Glenn back in Week 7 to face the Roughriders, who should have a healthy Darian Durant.