OTTAWA — When the Edmonton Elks take to the field Tuesday night against the Ottawa Redblacks, they don’t know what to expect to be facing at the quarterback position.
Rookie Caleb Evans will start under centre for the Redblacks (1-5) and will split the duties with Taryn Christion. The two have a combined for zero starts and zero snaps in the CFL.
Evans’ last start was in 2019 while in college at Louisiana-Monroe, and Christion the year before that at South Dakota State.
“We feel we have a 1 and a 1A, but we felt Caleb did some things through the duration of camp as well as some of the practices to earn the start,” Redblacks coach Paul LaPolice said.
“I’m going to play (Christion) also, they’re really close. I think it will be fair to give Taryn some reps too. We’ll make sure they do the things that help a team win."
The trial by fire that awaits Evans and Christion has been brought about by injury. Dominique Davis was placed on the six-game injured list following a hamstring injury he suffered in last week’s 24-7 loss to Hamilton. Matt Nichols is out with a shoulder and neck injury suffered in the same game.
The injuries forced Ottawa to finish the game with Canadian receiver Nate Behar under centre. He completed the only pass he threw for a three-yard gain.
"Part of this process is seeing if these guys are CFL quarterbacks. To be in double tight end the entire game and turn around and hand the ball off, I don't know if that does anybody any good. You also have to manage what they do well," LaPolice said.
"We have to try and simplify pictures for them and let them go out and play."
The Redblacks were 16-12 winners over the Elks back in Edmonton in Week 1, but they have lost five straight since that game. If they are going to halt that slide they will need a solid effort from both Evans and Christion.
“At the end of the day football is the same game that we’ve been playing since we were little. Go out there and do what got you here. Don’t try to do anything that’s not you. I just told them to have fun,” was the advice veteran receiver Kenny Stafford gave the pair.
“This coaching staff and this organization believe in them so they’re here for a reason.”
The 23-year old Evans is fresh out of college while Christion, 24, did get some looks with the Steelers back in 2019. Since neither has seen any game action recently there will be an adjustment period, but Evans feels that will be short lived.
"I'm feeling excited. I think we’ve got a good game plan in place and I feel confident with what I’m seeing right now," he said.
"It's definitely going to be something different because I’ll be getting tackled out there so I’ll have to adjust with taking the hits but I think I’ll adjust quickly.
"I'm good right now but game day the nerves will be there. At the end of the day it’s football so you have to think of it like that. Luckily we’ve got Matt (Nichols) and Dom (Davis), two veteran guys that are able to help me out."
The Elks activated quarterback Trevor Harris form the six-game injured list on Saturday but his status for Tuesday is still unknown. Elks coach Jamia Elizondo said after Friday’s practice that Taylor Cornelius would make his second straight start Tuesday.
The Elks (2-4) are coming off a bye week. They lost their previous two games before their week off.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2021.
Darren Desaulniers, The Canadian Press