When it comes to the most important position on the field, the Toronto Argonauts are in a very good place.
Future Hall of Famer Ricky Ray is in his prime and back for a third season in double blue. The 34-year old was magnificent in 2013, throwing for just under 2,900 yards despite missing eight games, tossing an impressive 21 touchdowns against just two interceptions, completing 66 per cent of his passes in the process.
He will be the starter, but the backup job is open. Zach Collaros won that battle with Trevor Harris a year ago, getting the call when Ray was injured on two separate occasions. Among the highlights for Collaros was leading the team to four consecutive road wins in as many weeks, something that had never been done before in CFL history.
Collaros signed a free-agent deal in Hamilton, so the chance to claim the shotgun seat next to Ray is there for the taking. There are four pivots looking to claim that spot, although Harris may have the best chance of claiming the role.
During training camp a year ago, the Argo brain trust could not decide on who should be the number two man to Ray. Collaros and Harris both showed promise, knew the playbook inside and out and had the respect of their teammates. Collaros won the job in 2013, this year head coach Scott Milanovich says it's Harris' job; at least for now.
"Right now Trevor is going to get that first shot," said the coach. "But he's by no means number two. He's been here for two years and he's earned the right, he's played well when he's played, so he's going to get the first shot there, but he's going to still have to earn it."
Harris didn't see much game action last year, but did show potential when he got on the field. What does he have to do to guarantee he'll be first off the bench if Ray can't play?
"Just the same things he's been doing really," continued Milanovich. "I went back and watched him just a few weeks ago, all his plays, and what Trevor does is he's efficient with the ball, he knows the offence, he takes what's there, he moves better in the pocket than you think he does, and he's a little bit in the mould of Ricky."
"I'm not going to anoint him Ricky Ray," the coach clarified, "but he's in that mould, that's how he kinda plays the game. I'm anxious to see him get a bunch of reps and see if he can take himself to the next level."
Harris is also ready to show what he can do. The soon to be 28-year old is a product of Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, where he set every school passing record. He worked hard on getting stronger in the off season. He put on about a dozen pounds and now tips the scale at 220. Mentally, he's same uber-prepared pivot.
"My mindset hasn't changed since the day I walked in," said Harris. "You prepare to be the starter, they put you where they feel you are (on the depth chart) and if you're told you're not good enough to make it, then so be it."
So how did he try to improve himself in the off season?
"Just sharpening as a whole," Harris continued. "You watch Ricky and every day he's working on his strengths and he's working harder on his weaknesses. That's just what you have to do, you just have to continue to get better in all facets. I was trying my butt off all off season to improve my strength. I want to be able to take more hits if I need to do so, I want to work on my touch, my accuracy and my route throwing."
Also in the mix to be the backup are returning players Mitchell Gale and Josh Portis, along with newcomer Casey Pachall out of TCU, a player many thought would be selected in the NFL draft. Pachall - pronounced pa-HALL - is up against stiff competition, a game with new rules, a new field, new terminology, and oh yeah, a potential work stoppage. That's something he doesn't think will be a problem, despite any missed practices or exhibition games giving him less time to impress his potential new bosses.
"I don't think it's going to affect anybody around here," said the strong-armed Texan. "Of course if it did happen, we would miss a few days of learning, but that's on us to learn ourselves and each of us has to stay in their playbook and do what we're asked in order to learn this offence and help this team in any way possible.
How many QBs will break camp? Last year the Argos carried five, fearing that they would lose Collaros and Harris to free agency and/or the Ottawa Redblacks expansion draft. There's no expansion draft next year, so General Manager Jim Barker doesn't have to keep as many bodies around. How many will the Argos keep?
"Probably four," Barker told TSN.ca "The plan we have with Ricky is to have a battle to be two and three (on the depth chart) and the fourth guy we'd like to develop. There's four of them here who have been here, so one of those guys won't be unless the new guy (can't get the job done)."
"If it's close you obviously look at the guy who hasn't been here as long," continued the GM. "The guys who have been here before should be ahead."
To surmise; Ray is the obvious starting quarterback. Harris is the man to beat as the backup, while Gale and Portis will each have to outperform Pachall, or one of them will be the odd man out.
That leads to a lot of competition for a team without a controversy at the position.