Redblacks hope new addition Dru Brown can provide stability

All eyes will be on Dru Brown to provide much-needed stability at quarterback this season for the Ottawa Redblacks. (CP/Heywood Yu)

All eyes will be on Dru Brown to provide much-needed stability at quarterback this season for the Ottawa Redblacks.

After a tumultuous four-year period marked by frequent changes and inconsistent performances, the Redblacks are banking on Brown’s skill set to revitalize their offence.

The Redblacks haven’t posted a winning season the past four years, posting just 14 wins during that time, and have struggled to show any kind of consistency under centre since the departure of Henry Burris and Trevor Harris.

Since parting ways with Harris after the 2018 season, the Redblacks have had failed experiments with Matt Nichols, Nick Arbuckle and Jeremiah Masoli.

Masoli’s past two seasons were cut short due to injury and remains sidelined as he recovers from a torn Achilles. He has been limited to just five games since signing with Ottawa for the 2022 season.

The Redblacks traded a fifth-round draft pick to Winnipeg for exclusive negotiating rights to Brown, which led to a two-year contract.

“I want to bring joy to this fan base, but that’s not necessarily at the forefront of my mind,” said the 27-year-old from Palo Alto, Calif. “I’m more concerned with the day-to-day process and, usually, when you do that everything kind of takes care of itself.”

Brown could be another risk for the Redblacks given his lack of experience as a consistent starter in the CFL. But he showed promise last season with the Blue Bombers, completing 62-of-89 passes for 983 yards, nine touchdowns, and no interceptions in two starts.

Brown considers himself a bit of a football nerd. From the time he took up the game as a nine-year-old he was never the biggest player, never had the biggest arm or was the fastest on the field, but found other ways to distinguish himself.

“I really enjoy the process of all the preparations, the mental side of things,” said Brown. “It just makes the game very slow for me and I think it kind of equalizes when guys are freak athletes and this and that.”

He’s also taken advantage of learning from those around him, like all-star quarterback Zach Collaros in Winnipeg and now Masoli.

The Redblacks’ quarterback situation is somewhat unique. Brown is anticipated to be the starter, but Dustin Crum is also getting reps at training camp.

Masoli and Tyree Adams, who’s been with Ottawa for three seasons and is also recovering from injury, are awaiting clearance to return. Meanwhile, Jake Dunniway and Matthew McKay are vying for the third-string quarterback position.

It might seem crowded, but after last years’ experience, Ottawa knows the importance of having depth under centre.

“I think this year’s (depth) is obviously stronger than what it was the year before,” said head coach Bob Dyce. “So, when you’re in a position of strength like that we just continue to want them all to compete and be the best versions of themselves.”

Crum entered camp as the fourth-string quarterback last season and worked his way to starter as injuries piled up. He’s now using that experience to expand his skill set and be prepared when called on.

“Obviously, we can only send one guy out there, but it’s exciting just to compete with everyone and learn from everyone,” said Crum. “I like being able to pick Dru’s brain and what he learned from (Collaros) and that championship culture in Winnipeg and to keep learning from Jeremiah and (offensive co-ordinator Tommy Condell). 

“It’s been a real exciting last couple of weeks and exponential growth.”

Condell likes the idea of competition and believes it will only help each individual as they prepare.

“We’re not only going to compete on the practice field,” said Condell. “From a preparation standpoint that’s going to be the demand. We’re competing on the field, competing in the meeting room and competing for knowledge and the right answer.”

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