Plenty of big-name NCAA quarterbacks wind up in the CFL, but not all of them wind up making much of an impact. Some renowned NCAA quarterbacks like former Boise State pivot Jared Zabransky and former Iowa slinger Drew Tate have carved out decent niches for themselves as CFL backups, but others like former Florida quarterback Chris Leak have struggled to hang around. Former Oregon and Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli may be the next well-known NCAA quarterback to try his luck up north, as he worked out for the Edmonton Eskimos last week. If he does wind up crossing the border, it's going to be interesting to see which mould he falls into.
There are several things about Masoli (pictured above against Mississippi State Nov. 27) that suggest he might be a nice fit for the CFL game. His 2010 season at Mississippi wasn't ideal, but it wasn't all that bad statistically; he completed 167 of 296 passes (56.4 per cent) for 2039 yards and 14 touchdowns (with 13 interceptions), and also ran for 544 yards and six touchdowns (averaging 4.5 yards per carry). When you consider that the Rebels faced some pretty tough teams in their SEC schedule, that's not all that bad. His stats are more impressive if you consider that he was basically thrown right into the fire; Masoli only joined Ole Miss in August, and he had to adapt to their largely pro-style offence, vastly different from the spread option attack he'd run at Oregon. He may not have brought the Rebels a ton of wins, but Red Cup Rebellion looked at their offensive statistics year over year and found Masoli kept the team pretty close to its 2009 levels, impressive considering the departure of several key starters (including running back Dexter McCluster, now with the Kansas City Chiefs).
The real signifier of Masoli's CFL potential may be the time he spent at Oregon, though. Chip Kelly's offence primarily works out of shotgun formations and uses a lot of zone read plays, both of which are common in the CFL. Masoli thrived as both a passer and a rushing threat in that system, as can be seen from both his 2008 and 2009 campaigns. In 2008, he completed 56.9 per cent of his passes for 1744 yards and 13 touchdowns, but most tellingly, only threw five interceptions. He also rushed 127 times for 718 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. In 2009, he completed 58 per cent of his passes for 2147 yards and 15 touchdowns with just six interceptions; he also ran for 668 yards and 13 touchdowns on 121 carries, an average of 5.5 yards per carry. It's worth noting that some of the success he found there may be thanks to the Ducks' superb offensive system (they went all the way to the national championship this year with Masoli's replacement Darron Thomas, who just happens to be on the Toronto Argonauts' negotiation list), but it speaks well for Masoli's CFL prospects that he did very well in a system that uses many of the same concepts as a lot of CFL offences. He's a mobile quarterback with a good arm, and plenty of those guys have found success up north over the years.
However, there are some questions about Masoli. He pled guilty to burglary charges last spring and then was kicked off the Ducks' team following a citation for marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license. He also spent three months in a juvenile detention facility in 2005 on burglary charges. There is some additional context to all of that that makes Masoli look a bit better, but he does carry some black marks on his reputation, and that may make the Eskimos leery of picking him (especially right after they cut ties with Adam Braidwood thanks to criminal charges against him).
Still, there is a chance Masoli could wind up in green and gold this coming year. He's not going to be the starter (Ricky Ray has that locked up) or backup (former Boise State star Jared Zabransky appears to have a firm hold on that position) at the start of the year, but he could be a nice developmental prospect for them and perhaps make an impact down the road (or sooner if they run into a rash of injuries or awful quarterback play). He also has a connection to Edmonton GM Eric Tillman, who graduated from Ole Miss.
Masoli would probably prefer to be selected in this year's NFL draft, and he has worked out for NFL scouts, but his prospects there don't seem all that high at the moment (particularly not at quarterback). The NFL historically hasn't been very high on mobile quarterbacks, and that trend seems to be continuing, so Masoli might want to think about coming north if he doesn't get a shot in the NFL. After all, a stint in Edmonton worked out very well for another mobile NCAA quarterback. There's certainly no guarantee that Masoli will ever become the next Warren Moon (or even get the chance to try), and there's also a chance he'll just be the next Chris Leak, but he's a player with an intriguing mix of skills that might fit in perfectly with the CFL game. It will be interesting to see if he gets a CFL shot.