(Over the next few days, this blog will do its best to give a rundown on how CIS alumni figure into the grand scheme for each CFL team. Friendly reminder: the ratio in the CFL requires each team to have seven 'nationals' among the 24 defensive and offensive starters. It should be 10, five on each side of the ball, but one battle at a time ... one battle at a time.)
Like any good fan, I oscillate 180 degrees on the Canadian quarterback debate.
Of course, this is in the Stampeders post since Andrew Buckley earned the No. 3 quarterback job fully on his merits, beating out Bryant Moniz. The 22-year-old Calgary Dinos grad took on the 27-year-old from a FBS passing factory, Hawai'i, and proved he had the best combination of skills and unscratched potential. It is even more encouraging to see that since this is happening with the strongest organization in the CFL, which hasn't been wrong about quarterbacks too often over the past decade.
The realist argument is that there should be an open market to play the most important position in the game. That means any Canadian passer with CFL ambitions has to accept that it is one vs. 100 in comparison to competing against Americans who have likely played D-1 or D-2, run a spread offence since junior high and played in 7-in-7 leagues. Professional teams have only finite patience with incoming athletes and Americans in the Nopuck team sports develop more quickly than Canadians, probably due to more intense youth leagues and the parental prerogative for early one-sport specialization.
At the same time, it feels like the Canadian Football League is missing something when a QB from north of the border starts about once every decade or two. Montreal's Brandon Bridge, when he briefly started early in 2015, was the first Canadian to do so. Brad Sinopoli's reinvention as an inside receiver has been wonderful, but he was still shy of 25 years old when he stopped being a quarterback.
There needs to be more effort in R&D — research and development, crazy notions, I know — that will help give a good Canadian athlete a chance to play quarterback, in either league. Those non-roster invites to training camp a good sop but ultimately standing behind the "ones" during drills might not do a whole lot.
Either way, Buckley's breakthrough is much more than a feel-good story.
Receivers / backs — Aforementioned Andrew Buckley, only player in CIS history to win a Hec Crighton and a Russ Jackson Award, is the third-string quarterback. Anthony Parker (Calgary), though, has exactly 85 receptions for 1,000 yards across the last three seasons, which is eminently playable wide-side production.
Since feature back Jerome Messam and blocking back Rob Cote are also nationals, that makes it incumbent upon Calgary to develop two similar body types, William Langlais (Sherbrooke) and Charlie Power (Saskatchewan), as utility backs. One is 6-foot-3, 238 pounds from the U de S and the other is 6-3, 231 from the U of S. Got it.
Having the Messam/Cote combo gives Calgary ratio flexibility in the receiving corps and defence. Simon Charbonneau-Campeau (Sherbrooke) is the replacement-level utility receiver.
Offensive line — Pierre Lavertu (Laval) is the reigning West Division all-star centre, with Roman Grozman (Concordia) and Cam Thorn (Guelph) both getting on-the-job training as developing interior linemen. Even though all five starters had significant injury absences, Calgary gave up the fewest sacks while going 14-4 and reaching the West final for the seventh time in eight seasons. Big Shane Bergman (Western) is now a fixture at left guard, while Dan Federkeil (Calgary) is a star at right tackle.
Defensive front seven — Those who would love to see phased-in increase in Canadian starters might cite Calgary's imbalance, with 11 Americans starting (going by the final preseason depth chart). Defensive tackle Quinn Smith (Concordia), whose backup is Derek Wiggan (Queen's), is the only first-stringer who brings his 'eh' game. Veteran Junior Turner (Bishop's) has been a productive rotational D-lineman for several seasons.
Ben D'Aguilar and Mike Kashak (both McMaster) are reserves at defensive end. Max Caron (Concordia) is on the practice squad.
Defensive secondary — The luxury of that well-cultivated depth means Calgary can count on Jeff Hecht (Saint Mary's), Adam Berger (Simon Fraser) and Adam Thibault (Laval) to play mostly special teams.
Specialists — The way it should be! Kicker Rene Paredes (Concordia) and Rob Maver (pre-Stu Lang Guelph) each have only one job. Expect the TSN commentators to make way too much out of long snapper Pierre-Luc Caron (Laval) being a rookie.