The Montreal Alouettes lost one of the CFL’s best ever quarterbacks – some will argue the best CFL quarterback ever. CFL great Anthony Calvillo retired this off-season as the CFL’s all-time passing leader, with 3 Grey Cup wins, CFL’s Most Outstanding Player of the year awards, and a Grey Cup Most Valuable Player award as well. Losing one of the best quarterbacks to ever hit the field would be a problem for most teams but the Als find themselves in really good shape considering. That reason is 2006 Heisman winner Troy Smith. The great Calvillo is gone but Smith is ready to take the reins. Smith was an All-American at Ohio State, passed for 2542 yards with 30 touchdowns and only 6 picks in his Heisman winning season. He was selected in the 5th round by the Baltimore Ravens and also suited up for the 49ers. Smith won the NFL player of the week in 2010 when he played for San Francisco, that season he passed for 1,176 yards with 5 touchdowns and 4 picks in 6 starts. The 29-year old is perfect for the CFL and last season he got his chance to start in the CFL, showing he has the potential to be a star – going 2-1 and finishing with 52.6 completion percentage, 885 yards passing, 9 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. I think Smith can enjoy the most success for a Heisman winner in the CFL since Doug Flutie. It doesn’t hurt that the Als receiving core is one of the best in the CFL.
The Als have another 5th round NFL pick in receiver David Clowney, and if he recovers from a neck injury which kept him out in 2013, he will be a nice target for Smith. Clowney has the talent but regardless if he recovers or not, Duran Carter is in store for a huge year. Carter enjoyed a breakout season in 2013 when the Ohio State product posted 909 receiving yards with an 18.6-yard average per reception. The Ohio State alumni connection of Smith to Carter could be deadly in 2014. S.J Green just signed a two-year extension this off-season and is looking for his fourth straight 1000 yard receiving season. Green put up 1197 yards receiving in 2013 along with 13 touchdowns. Expect Jamel Richardson to bounce back after an injury plagued 2013 season. Richardson had 6 straight 1000-yard receiving seasons before the 2013 season including 1777 yards in 2011.
Now for the non-import receivers, the Als brought back Dave Stala, who has had two 1000-yard receiving seasons in his CFL career including 1037 yards and 83 catches in 2005 with the Als. Stala should help mentor the young Chris Dobko, who has a chance to be a decent non-import CFL receiver. The Saint Albert, Alberta product was a member of the Calgary Dinos and put up 659 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns in 6 games in his final CIS season. Solid wide receiver Eric Deslauriers from Gatineau, QC put up 316 receiving yards in 2013. I didn’t even mention imports 6’4 Kenny Stafford and 6’4 Roberto Wallace, who both had NFL stints – it just goes to show how deep this receiving corps is. Smith won’t have a lack of talented receivers to throw the rock to even if the injury bug hits. The running backs won’t hurt the passing game either.
Former Outstanding Canadian Player of the year, Jerome Messam was fourth on the team with 317 rec. yards. Brandon Whitaker was plagued by injury in 2013 but in 2011 he had 72 catches for 638 yards and in 2012 he complied 516 rec. yards. Messam and Whitaker are a solid 1-2 punch but it might be 2013 fifth overall pick Steven Lumbala from the Calgary Dinos taking over the starting spot and continuing in the mold of the resurgence of the Canadian running back. Lumbala has all the skills to be in the Jon Cornish, Andrew Harris category of Canadian running back. Watch out for Lumbala to potentially break out. The Montreal Alouettes aren’t going to miss Calvillo as much as their fans think. They won’t forget about Calvillo, but the Troy Smith chapter will turn the Montreal fans frowns upside down pretty quick.
Ray A. Beau
Talk about the Canadian Football League
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