There weren’t many positives to come out of the Ottawa Redblacks’ dismal 3-11 season in 2021. The offence struggled to score points, the defence had a hard time keeping the opposition in range, and as a whole, the team was roughed up on most nights. If there was one gleaming beacon of hope in Ottawa, however, it was their young pivot, Caleb Evans.
Evans started seven of the Redblacks’ 14 games in 2021, throwing for 1,279 yards with five touchdowns and nine interceptions. On the ground, Evans was equally as impressive, scrambling for 345 yards and another three touchdowns, frequently doing his best work when all hopes of a positive play looked lost.
Despite hopes that Evans can one day become the future face of the franchise, the Redblacks chose to invest in the immediate future in the offseason, bringing in former Hamilton Tiger-Cats star, Jeremiah Masoli.
“As a player, you always want to play,” Evans said. “But as a team player too, you always want to see the team go in the right direction. Whatever they feel is the right thing to do to win. I love Masoli already, the relationship we have is very good. He’s teaching me things, I’m teaching him things.”
When Evans was a rookie last season, he had veteran quarterbacks such as Matt Nichols and Dominique Davis to learn from, but this time, he’s learning from a veteran who is closer to him as a player.
“He brings in a veteran aspect,” Evans said. “It’s kinda similar to Matt Nichols, but he’s been around the league, won MOP and things like that. It’s nice to look at a guy who has been at the top and is very good at what he does. It’s a chance to learn from him and build on my experiences.”
“He’s got a similar skillset, so he can run and throw, I can run and throw. When I see certain plays that I have questions about, we talk about it.”
Masoli has been more than just a teacher early in camp for Evans. The two have already grown close, and each day, they are helping each other become better players.
“He’s been like a friend,” Evans said. “It’s good to be talking to a guy who knows football like that. When you are easy to talk to and you know football, it’s very good quarterbacks toom, and I like the relationship we have.”
Although Evans will start the season as Masoli’s backup, he knows he needs to be ready for anything. Time and time again in the CFL, backup quarterbacks need to play at least a handful of games over the course of the season, and the best teams have two capable quarterbacks to help them over the finish line. Using the experiences he gained by starting in 2021, he went about his offseason to correct some of the imperfections in his game, anticipating a need to step up during the season.
“Getting that experience last year, whether I was throwing it or starting games, nothing is like game reps,” Evans said. “You can simulate it in practice, but until you get out there, it’s different. I definitely took all that experience from the five or six games I played and built off of it. I’m feeling pretty good in training camp so far.”
“I went really hard in the offseason this year. I just looked at all the things I did poorly last year, and attacked it in the offseason. Working on footwork and things like that, having my eyes in the right spot, and really learning the playbook. That’s where I really elevated my game.”
It hasn’t just been Masoli pushing Evans along either. Both Tyrie Adams and David Moore have been important parts of the quarterback’s room at training camp Evans says.
“It’s really fun,” said Evans. “Tyrie Adams is a very energetic guy, he’s bouncing around all day. He keeps the energy going for sure. We’ve got a good relationship in the quarterback’s room. Everybody is critiquing guys and taking positives. Everyone is pushing each other to be better.”
Above all else, Evans is just happy to be back on the football field for his second season with the Redblacks.
“It feels great, I’m excited to be back,” he said. “With everything that has been going on, we’re just excited to be back on the field getting things started.”
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