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QB Smith has pedigree to lead post-Calvillo Alouettes

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Ben Fisher, TSN.ca
6/13/2014 10:37:29 AM
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It's not fair to ask Troy Smith to become the next Anthony Calvillo.

It's barely fair to ask a Ricky Ray or Travis Lulay - veteran pivots with Grey Cups and Most Outstanding Player awards to their name - to assume the role of face of the league and greatest active player. So it's really not fair for a quarterback with four career starts in the CFL under his belt - albeit promising ones - to be put under that spotlight.

But, as the de facto replacement for Calvillo in Montreal, fairly or not that could be the measuring stick for Smith.

A more realistic expectation, and one Smith has a shot at living up to, is a solid quarterback that gives the team a chance to win week in and week out.

After relieving Josh Neiswander (no longer with the team) midway through a late season game, Smith never looked back in guiding the Alouettes into the playoffs and briefly flirting with second place in the division and a home playoff date.

His numbers in his short stint as starter were encouraging. While his completion percentage was just a shade over 50 percent, he threw nine touchdowns to just five interceptions and averaged nearly 300 passing yards per contest.

And while his stat line from Montreal's lone playoff game (14-26, 142 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) was far from impressive, the poise and leadership he displayed - factoring in nerves, inexperience, and all the rhetoric attached to a rookie making his first postseason appearance - was heartening for Alouettes fans.

But that composure really isn't all that surprising for a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback with tangible NFL experience. Following a strong four-year career at Ohio State, two years as a starter, Smith was awarded the 2007 Heisman Trophy and then embarked on a four-year NFL career, finishing with 1,734 passing yards and 11 combined touchdowns.

If you're apt to use the term pedigree to predict future success, a quarterback like Smith would surely fit the bill.

And now for the best news of all in relations to Smith's chances of succeeding as a CFL quarterback: Montreal's stacked receiving corps.

Injuries to Jamel Richardson, proven long ago to be a bona fide stud receiver, opened the door for S.J. Green to elevate his status from very good to great last season; while Duron Carter demonstrated he's very much Pro Football Hall of Famer Chris Carter's son in his CFL debut season.

Health permitting, Smith will be throwing to receivers with a combined eight 1,000 yard receiving seasons, and four double-digit touchdowns seasons. And Carter almost added to that total in just 12 games last year (enjoy him while you can; the 23-year-old will be making plays in the NFL next season).

With those three thoroughbreds in tow, former NFL star and notorious headline stealer Chad Johnson should be battling for fourth on the import receiving depth chart at best.

It's of course hard to predict how Smith will do this season and in future years, other than to say he'll be hard-pressed to make Als fans forget Calvillo anytime soon. There have been several quarterbacks of the future the past number of seasons in the CFL, few of them (less than nine!) have panned out. But Smith has everything you'd seem to want to at least take your shot with him. And that's likely what the Alouettes will do.

Notes

Calvillo Retires 2013 marked the end of an era as Anthony Calvillo, perhaps the greatest CFL quarterback of all time, retired after 20 seasons. The majority of Calvillo's career was spent in Montreal, as were the majority of his 79,816 career passing yards (a professional record) and his 455 career touchdown passes (a CFL record). Calvillo also won three Grey Cups and three Most Outstanding Player awards with the Alouettes.

Expansion Draft The Alouettes lost three young players to the Ottawa Redblacks in December's expansion draft, none more valuable than versatile FB Patrick Lavoie, who was making a name for himself in the two years he spent with Montreal. The Als also lost DT Moton Hopkins and LB Jordan Verdone.

Free Agency Montreal was once again quiet on the free agent market, deciding against bidding on any of the top names available. Free agency will be known more for when the team lost some talent, highlighted by LB Shea Emry's departure to Toronto, but GM Jim Popp did make sure to lock up some important pieces, highlighted by the re-signing of LT Josh Bourke. Return man Larry Taylor was also traded for during this period.

Higgins Hired Up until Tom Higgins was hired to coach the team, it was unknown if Montreal would hire a coach or just let Popp continue on in the interim role. The Higgins hiring was strange also because GM Popp appeared to not be a part of the interviewing process for Higgins.

Quatre-Vingt Cinq Despite an already solid receiving corps, the Alouettes added some more sizzle by signing former NFLer/headline-maker Chad Johnson to a contract in April. The transaction may be as much a publicity stunt as it is a solid football move but Johnson showed up to Montreal in good shape, in high spirits, and looking like he still has some football left to play.

Offensive Line Losses Montreal lost two mainstays of their offensive line in the off-season when Andrew Woodruff and Scott Flory announced their retirements.

CFL Draft The team helped to replenish their offensive line in the first round of the draft by selecting David Foucault from Montreal. The rest of the draft saw Montreal select Queen's DB Andrew Lue 10th overall, Guelph DL Jeffrey Finley 22nd overall, York DL James Tuck 31st overall, Manitoba WR Andrew Smith 35th overall, Manitoba K/P Nick Boyd 43rd overall, Sherbrooke FB Jean-Christophe Beaulieu 49th overall, and Calgary WR Mackenzie Sarro 58th overall.

Troy Smith (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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