5 takeaways from REDBLACKS’ Virtual QB club

OTTAWA — The Ottawa REDBLACKS hosted a virtual QB club on Wednesday night with head coach Paul LaPolice and quarterback Nick Arbuckle.

The pair talked with TSN1200’s Lee Versage about everything from how their families are doing, previous seasons, the upcoming campaign and much, much more.

Here are 5 takeaways from the conversation:

1. Relationships building between the coaching staff

LaPolice and his staff had a few weeks together before the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to their in-person planning for the 2020 season for the time being. Before things were shut down, LaPolice met with defensive coordinator Mike Benevides to talk defence and then had about three weeks with his entire staff.

“The cooler part of that stuff is just the relationships starting to build with the guys. A bunch of guys were staying in a hotel close by but they shared a car. So (it was like), ‘who’s picking who up? You’ll take the car, I’ll walk home.’ Just seeing the interpersonal (relationships). I remember one night we walked out for dinner, me and one of the coaches, and bang, there’s four of the other guys on defence. So we sat all together. That bonding is pretty neat. I’m a big fan of our staff. We’ve got a bunch of really good guys.”

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2. What LaPolice likes about Nick Arbuckle

Nick Arbuckle’s rights were traded to the Ottawa REDBLACKS in early January. By the end of the month he was signed to a two-year deal to stay in the nation’s capital. LaPolice explains what drew him, and the rest of the organization, to the 26-year-old.

“The process of evaluating Nick happened after the season. Certainly I knew people within that (Calgary) organization that spoke very highly about Nick. About this work ethic, his leadership abilities. The quarterback position is a different position now. You can’t fake it at quarterback, right? You better be one of the hardest working people in the building. You better be somebody who comes to work every day and is disciplined to do the job and play the position. Certainly that’s what we heard about Nick and what we’ve seen from Nick so far. (He’s) done a good job of rallying people around him. His tape was good, as we watched every throw of the season and everything.”

3. How does Nick Arbuckle stay sharp during the halt in play

Since most players have a specific off-season routine to get ready for a new campaign, Arbuckle explains how he’s had to adapt his training amidst the uncertainty of the global pandemic.

“I don’t think you can quite over study but trying to find the balance and the ability to consistently prepare for something that you don’t know when it’s coming is a little different. When you’re preparing for a season normally, you’re taking the off-season and you have a set date that you’re trying to prepare for. You want to accomplish these things and be this much ready and have this done by this date. So you kind of have an idea of how to plan each day to meet that goal. But when you have an unknown date for a season, or whether there is going to be a season or not, you don’t really know what you’re preparing for so it’s a little bit more challenging to find the right routine that you need to get into. You don’t know if you’re preparing for a season that’s 10/12 months away or a month or two away. For myself, as long as I know I’m doing something everyday to get better physically, mentally or both, I just know I’ll be ready for whenever we do hear the news and have a season.”

 4. On the opportunity of becoming a starting QB in Ottawa

After just two seasons as a backup in Calgary, Arbuckle is now finally ready to lead a professional football team as a starting quarterback. He says that opportunity is something he wasn’t sure he’d ever get again.

“Just having that opportunity again, where you can go somewhere and be a starting quarterback in professional football and do it in the CFL, is something that I didn’t know I’d have the opportunity for. When I got done playing college football on the last game I was really the starter of a program. I didn’t know if I was ever going to get that chance to be a starter of a team and lead a team from that position ever again. Then when I got up here and started getting things rolling with the Stampeders, I still wasn’t sure. With my career as a professional, was I just going to be a backup quarterback and somebody that never really got to lead a team? So to finally have this opportunity is something that is an incredible feeling. It’s something that I don’t even know if it’s really sunk in yet because I haven’t had that chance to start on the field yet. It’s great knowing that somebody, and an organization as great as this one, believed in me and believed in my ability to be a leader and to be a quarterback at this level to put that faith in me and bring me here on a contract to be a starter.”

5. On what to expect with the roster heading into the new season

There were quite a few changes to the Ottawa REDBLACKS roster this off-season with additions on both sides of the ball along. LaPolice took some time to break down the new pieces as some of the ones that will return from last year.

“I do know that we have some tools and some pieces in place. R.J. Harris is somebody I’ve known about a long time. I coached at the University of New Hampshire so some of my friends put me onto him. We had him at camp in Winnipeg. I just was excited to watch his tape. Jalen Saunders is an addition who brings a lot speed and excitability. We were happen to bring Anthony Coombs on board. He can be a versatile football player. He can go into the backfield and create havoc for defences trying to sort out is he playing receiver right now or is he a running back? (Brad) Sinopoli we think is somebody that can move from spot to spot, we can put him anywhere and is somebody that Nick can trust. The tailback situation with (John) Crockett, who did a nice job last year when he played and Timothy Flanders is a talented football player. He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever coached so he’ll fit right in. I don’t mention much of the offensive line because we didn’t make many changes there. Marcel (Desjardins) did a great job of having a veteran crew there. I’m really excited about the draft picks we’ve put into those spots over the last couple of years. It’s a talented offensive line. Defensively, you saw us bring in some pieces but also we kept some pieces that we thought were good football players that we needed to just change some scheme stuff for them.”

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