Travis Lulay knows what Zach Collaros is going through.
It wasn’t that long ago that Lulay, now a Grey Cup champion and MVP with the B.C. Lions, was a rookie quarterback getting ready to make his first CFL start.
Collaros will get his shot in place of injured Toronto starter Ricky Ray when the Argonauts (2-2) host the Lions (3-1) in a rare Tuesday night game at Rogers Centre.
“He’s excited, I can guarantee you that,” Lulay said Monday. “I can think back to my first start. I saw him doing an interview and you could see that excitement.
“Everyone’s been there. We can relate to being in that situation.”
The 24-year-old Collaros spent most of last season on the injured list and sat No. 4 on Toronto’s depth chart but will get his first professional start after Ray suffered a knee injury in the Argonauts’ 35-19 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on July 19.
The extended layoff off between games due to a scheduling quirk gave Collaros time to prepare to face the Lions and their No. 1-ranked defence.
“I’m excited to get going,” said the University of Cincinnati product. “It’s good to have three full practices under my belt and it’s going to make the transition that much easier for me.”
Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich says he expects Collaros, who has completed 7 of 10 passes for 112 yards in limited action in 2013, to do what has made him successful up to this point.
“Zach’s a very emotional guy. He’ll be jazzed up. I think he thrives on his emotion and I don’t want to change that,” Milanovich said. “He’s not Ricky. He’s a different style of player and he’s a different personality and we’re not going to try and make him Ricky.
“We want him to go out and be the guy that he’s always been.”
Lions head coach Mike Benevides, whose team defeated Toronto 24-16 at B.C. Place Stadium in Week 2, says the Lions will have to be careful with Collaros early.
“We’ve got to be vigilant. We’ve got to make sure that we stay sound and make sure that we don’t give him easy things,” he said. “You have to pick your spots when you attack him.”
A former quarterback himself, Milanovich has spent time talking to Collaros about the pressure of being in the professional spotlight.
“When you’re in a position of leadership, guys are looking to see how you react, particularly when things don’t go well,” he said. “It’s easy when things are going well but I always tried to remain in control of the situation.”
Milanovich, who is hopeful that Ray will be back under centre when Toronto returns to game action from its bye week on Aug. 8, is also without his starting running back for Tuesday’s game.
Chad Kackert suffered a knee injury of his own against Winnipeg and is out at least a month. Toronto will start rookie Curtis Steele in his place.
“He’s a tough kid,” Milanovich said of Steele. “He’s very athletic. Without having him play in a game, he seems likes a very well-rounded CFL back ... whether he’s going to be able to show that (Tuesday) night remains to be seen but I think he’s a very, very talented young man that’s serious about football.”
Despite the drastic change in personnel, Lions linebacker Adam Bighill says he has a pretty good idea of what will be coming their way from the Argonauts.
“Teams don’t change too much. They set their identity on who they want to be,” said Bighill, who will be back in the lineup after missing two weeks with a sprained ankle. “We always expect a new wrinkle here and there but for the most part they’re going to be who they are.”
The Lions head into the Week 5 finale in third place in the West Division behind the Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-0) and the Calgary Stampeders (4-1). The East, which has been much weaker early in the season, has Toronto ahead of the second-place Montreal Alouettes (2-3).
“We only get to do this 18 times during the regular season so every game is extremely important,” Benevides said. “Teams are still formulating their personalities but for us our objective is to find win No. 4. The West is always going to be tough, that doesn’t change.”
Notes: B.C. has won six straight against Toronto and 16 of the last 17. ... The last rookie quarterback to win his first start with the Argonauts was Marcus Brady, who beat Winnipeg 24-14 on July 15, 2003. Brady is now Toronto’s offensive co-ordinator.
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