The Redblacks quarterback position and in turn their season already looks to be on life support after just four games and five weeks. With two season ending injuries at the position already, Ottawa was forced to bring in-depth. The two quarterbacks added are just that, depth pieces to ensure we don’t see a repeat of the Denver Broncos situation when they were forced to start a wideout at quarterback during a bout with covid.
Forced back to the drawing board at The most important position in the game, Ottawa turned to a familiar face first to bring in some depth. Jake Dunaway had spent some time in Ottawa previously this off-season learning the offense but ultimately not making the team out of camp. that early grasp on the playbook has now made him even more valuable for Ottawa who is searching for experienced options early in the season already. However they didn’t stop there.
Jake Dunniway , Sacramento State
Dunniway’s college career was interesting to say the least. Originally he would commit to UC Davis for the 2017 season where he was redshirted. Where he played under former CFL coach Dan Hawkins who was hired in 2017 ‘s the new head coach after one season with the Austrian Football League’s Vienna Vikings.
This marriage was short lived as Dunniway wanted to play and apparently didn’t want to wait. He would leave UC Davis joining San Diego Mesa Junior College where he was the starter for one season in an effort to increase his stock. A risky move, but one that paid off for Dunniway. He would end up being named first team all-National Central League on the strength of an impressive season. He completed 61.5% of his passes racking up 2,888 yards and 27 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions. He had a streak of seven straight games with 27 completions or more to finish the season, including two games in which he threw for a combined 927 yards and 10 touchdowns.
This year had him back on the radar of much larger schools. Ultimately the California kid chose Sacramento State as his next destination. At Sac State he competed for the starting job but didn’t take over until 2021. In 2019 he appeared in 8 games including one start. He would throw 72 passes completing 43 for 582 yards 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. In his lone start he went 27 of 44 for 384 yards and 4 touchdowns displaying what he could do with the opportunity to play.
Following their 2020 season being cancelled, Dunniway was finally given a larger opportunity even though it did require splitting snaps. Despite this two quarterback system, Dunniway appeared in 12 games starting 9 of them, throwing 288 passes, and completing 182. This was good enough for 2,576 yards, 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions on the season. He was named third team All-Big Sky in 2021 for the first time.
In 2022 as a 6th year senior, Dunniway again played a significant role. He appeared in 13 games throwing at least one touchdown in 12 games. He would finish the season with career highs in passing attempts, completions, touchdowns and interceptions. Going 185 of 314 for 2,417 yards, 19 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He finished his collegiate career with his name strewn across the record books for Sac State.
19 touchdown passes ranked 7th all-time
5,575 passing yards ranked 4th all-time
60.8% completion rate ranked 4th all-time
410 completions ranked 5th all-time
36 touchdowns ranked 5th all-time
141.1 Quarterback Rating 5th all-time
5,642 total yards ranked 5th all-time
674 passing attempts ranked 6th all-time
He would also be named third team All-Big Sky for the second season in a row. This is considering for the second year in a row he split time at the quarterback position. This time Asher O’Hara threw 111 passes the previous season he had attempted 143 passes just to give you an idea how much playing time Dunniway was missing in favor of O’Hara. If this system had never been incorporated and Dunniway was simply allowed to start both years do we see him top 4,000 passing yards both seasons? Does that change the trajectory of his career?
Hindsight is 20-20 but these are questions we will never be able to answer. It does however make you wonder if Ottawa has gotten a steal at the quarterback position long term. Having attempted half as many passes as most players that were considered three year starters, he still has a lot of room to develop given the time to do so. He’s a guy who could benefit in the short term by playing indoor football to increase his comfort level on timing up high motion routes, and speeding up his processing time. Perhaps a trip to the CIF, which ends its regular season before CFL ends would make some sense for the young QB.
Tyrell Pigrome, Towson
Tyrell Pigrome might be a rookie by professional football standards but he might be one of the most experienced CFL rookies in recent memory. Playing in 56 games over seven seasons he started for three different programs during that time. Pigrome is your ideal short yardage option at the CFL level.
He doesn’t have ideal size for a passer at 5’9 200 pounds, and is built more like a running back. During his career he was early on used as a runner nearly as much as he was a passer. In fact his first three seasons at Maryland saw him end the year with less than ten attempts separating his passing and rushing numbers. It wasn’t until his fourth season at Maryland that he was trusted to be more than essentially a wildcat quarterback.
Finally in year four with Maryland after playing 23 games over three seasons he would get his chance to start three games at quarterback playing in 11 games total. This would mark the first time Pigrome attempted more than 71 passes. To this point he had been a sub 60% passer even as a backup, and there was reluctance to turn to him full-time due to this. He would come in and attempt 118 passes but display some questionable decisions which led to 3 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.
Moving on From Maryland
After appearing in 34 games in four seasons for Maryland Pigrome had collected 268 attempts, 152 completions, for 1,777 yards 9 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, with 176 rushing attempts for 630 yards and 8 touchdowns. Having received a medical redshirt after missing all but one game in 2017, he decided to exhaust his eligibility at Western Kentucky during the 2020 season. This amounted to his first chance as a full time starter, and he would reward the program with a career year.
Attempting what still stands as a career high 297 passes, Pigrome was throwing more often than he ever had before completing 57.6% of his passes the second highest rate of his career. (not counting 2017 when he played just one game) He threw for 1,603 yards 9 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. This season displayed he could protect the ball while still being a plus athlete for WKU adding 105 carries for 337 yards and 4 touchdowns.
In 2021 he moved on to his third school in as many seasons. This time joining Ole Miss for the 2021 season. Pigrome would never appear in a game for the school, and retain his final year of eligibility granted for COVID. This left him one more chance to transfer and transfer he did. This time to Towson his last stop in college.
Again he was allowed to operate as the starter for Towson and again he put up similar numbers to what he had produced in 2020. Attempting 274 passes, completing 155 for 1,638 yards, 14 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, adding career highs in carries, and yards, with: 134 for 574 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also led his team to a 6-5 record on the year under head coach Rob Ambrose in his final season with the team.
Pigrome was signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers earlier this year playing in three games. He ultimately was let go when Winnipeg brought back it’s former short yardage specialist Dakota Prukop who had a cup of coffee in the USFL with the New Jersey Generals. Pigrome as stated above is truly not much more than a short yardage option for Ottawa, his passing statistics in college do not inspire confidence that he can take over the reigns as the starter for the Redblacks unless absolutely necessary, in terms of starting options on the roster he is the clear cut #4. However in the CFL, where short yardage quarterbacks are used as specialists, Pigrome could find a long term role despite turning 26 years old in October of his rookie season.
Final Thoughts on these two Quarterbacks
Given his mobility and ability to fill the short yardage role taking some hits away from Dustin Crum, I would expect we see him as the third quarterback active on game day every week, with Arbuckle the QB2. This would leave Dunniway on the practice squad.
Situation could change extremely fast given the fact that we all know the Ottawa Redblacks have already spoken with veteran Quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson. If anything these moves are to solidify the position in the meantime until Ottawa can get their veteran of choice in the building. With MBT awaiting an NFL contract, Ottawa could be left in the wind for as many as three more weeks.
The biggest question at that point would be if Ottawa is even still in playoff contention, and if bringing in a veteran quarterback even makes sense. If the season is lost by that point the team would be arguably better off simply letting their younger quarterbacks finish out the season to see what they have at the position long term. Depending on how these next three to four games fall in the CFL, Ottawa could be looking at another tough season making it three straight.
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