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Kyle Quinlan, the next Great Canadian Quarterback Hope, signs with the Alouettes

Kyle Quinlan hurdled Dominic Noel in the 2011 Vanier Cup. Now, can he hurdle the Canadian QB barrier?

There's been plenty of hype about the likely-unrealistic scenario of Tim Tebow potentially coming to the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, but the team's actually signed a quarterback who may be even more interesting. That would be McMaster Marauders' star Kyle Quinlan, who many have pegged as the next great Canadian hope at quarterback. Given that the Canadian quarterback debate continues to be one of the biggest CFL storylines, Quinlan's tenure in Montreal will be well worth watching. If Quinlan can flourish there, it may show that exceptional Canadian quarterbacks can succeed under the current roster rules (it's notable that Brad Sinopoli is still on Calgary's roster, too), but if he gets cut, it may be more proof that that the rules need to be changed.

Of course, Quinlan actually signed with the Alouettes last year and attended camp with them, but then was cut and went back to the CIS ranks with McMaster. That probably was best for him in the long haul; he turned in a stellar season (and a full one, unlike his arrest and suspension-interrupted 2011), earned the Hec Crighton Trophy as the top CIS player and led the Marauders back to the Vanier Cup (even if they lost to Laval this time around). Moreover, Quinlan clearly showed Montreal enough during last year's camp that the Alouettes were willing to take another look at him. Still, it's just notable that his previous stint in the pro ranks wasn't instantly dazzling.

There's plenty to suggest that Quinlan could be a capable CFL quarterback, though. His regular-season CIS stats from 2012 are remarkable; he completed 68.9 per cent of his passes (second-best in the country) while throwing for 2457 yards (third-best), an average of 10.5 yards per completion (tied for first amongst everyone with more than two completions) and didn't turn over the ball, throwing 19 touchdowns against just two interceptions. Quinlan also proved effective on the run, frequently escaping pressure by stepping out of the pocket and giving defences something to think about in the ground game, where he ran 55 times for 550 yards (10 yards per carry) and seven further touchdowns with just three fumbles (two of which were lost). His game's about more than just the stats, though; many of the CFL observers who have watched Quinlan play have commented favourably on his arm strength, his mobility and his decision-making. If he was an American who'd put up those numbers at an NCAA school, even a Division II or Division III one, no one would question him as a CFL prospect.

Quinlan's Canadian citizenship adds a new dimension, though, even if the CFL's import rules (which don't consider quarterbacks' nationalities) don't recognize it. Simply, this league hasn't had a really good Canadian pivot since Russ Jackson, and many of the top CIS quarterbacks since then either haven't received a look at the pro level or have had to switch positions. Plenty of fans and media members would love to see Canadians given the same chances they receive at other positions, but the league continues to drag its feet on changing the import rules. Thus, Quinlan signing with the Alouettes is more notable than your average quarterback prospect. Everyone around this needs to be patient, though; it takes time for quarterbacks to adjust to the CFL game, regardless of what level they previously played at. Fortunately, Montreal seems to realize that; they've signed Quinlan to either a two-year or a three-year deal (the distinction may involve an option year), which suggests a reasonable commitment (but doesn't necessarily guarantee he'll be around that long). There also may be opportunity for Quinlan there: the starting job's set with Anthony Calvillo returning, but backup Adrian McPherson may be on his way out, and Quinlan could potentially compete for the backup or third-string job with Stephen Garcia and Josh Neiswander (plus any other quarterbacks the Alouettes bring in before camp). We'll see how it works out. If things don't pan out for an incredibly talented, well-regarded prospect like Quinlan, though, it's hard to see how they ever could for a Canadian quarterback under the current ratio rules.

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