WINNIPEG — There’s no doubt in rookie head coach Mike O’Shea’s mind who the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ starting quarterback is.
The Bombers unveiled newcomer Drew Willy on Friday, a day after acquiring the young quarterback from the Saskatchewan Roughriders. And O’Shea immediately named Willy as his starter.
“You see a guy who has been tutored by some good coaches,” said O’Shea. “He’s ready for this.”
Winnipeg has two other quarterbacks on its roster — Max Hall and Justin Goltz. And although Willy has made just four career CFL starts, O’Shea believes his time has come.
“It’s important to this franchise to have a quarterback and a guy that everybody can believe in.,” O’Shea said.
Willy, 27, played two seasons behind Darian Durant with the Roughriders. He said he prides himself on his passing accuracy and feels comfortable in all situations but also expects to learn by doing.
“Being behind a guy like Darian Durant you learn a lot,” he said. “I’ve learned from George Cortez, you learn a ton. Obviously I’ve had Khari Jones in my ear the last two years as well.”
Cortez is Saskatchewan’s offensive co-ordinator. Jones was the club’s quarterback coach in 2012 and 2013, before becoming the B.C. Lions offensive co-ordinator.
“It’s something for the fans and for the coaching staff, the management, to be excited about,” O’Shea said of Willy’s signing.
The Bombers are in dire need of a starter who can win games and fill seats at their new stadium. The club posted a 3-15 record last season that tied a modern franchise record for futility.
The Bombers approached free agents Zach Collaros and Henry Burris. But Collaros signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats while Burris joined the expansion Ottawa Redblacks.
Winnipeg GM Kyle Walters denied Willy was necessarily third on the Bombers list but also didn’t rule out adding another quarterback to the roster.
“We’re always looking to improve our team, free agency trades . . . we’ll explore all options all the time to improve our team and promote competition at every position,” he said.
But Walters had nothing but praise for the young quarterback they’re hanging their hopes on right now.
“Pocket awareness, toughness, what drew put on film showed that he’s ready to be a starting quarterback in this league,” he said.
Willy started two games in 2013, going 1-1. He earned his first career CFL win as a rookie, a come-from behind win at Winnipeg in the Banjo Bowl. He finished 17-of-23 passing for 188 yards and a touchdown while also running for another.
Willy played at the University of Buffalo where he was the most prolific passer in school history, setting records for completions (849), attempts (1,322), passing yards (8,748), touchdowns (52), total offence (8,639), and completion percentage (64.2).
He also spent some time in the NFL on practice squads in Indianapolis, Baltimore, San Diego, and New York and played in the UFL with Las Vegas in 2010.