As teams push into the final six games of the 2013 CFL season, we’re not raving about many of the players we have become accustomed to touting – stars such as Anthony Calvillo, Ricky Ray, Chad Owens and Travis Lulay. With several of the league’s most recognizable characters injured or struggling, some new faces have emerged. Our CFL writers muse about some of the players currently impressing, capitalizing or otherwise making headlines, and suggest contenders for some of the league’s season-ending awards.
MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER
Kory Sheets (RB, Saskatchewan Roughriders) – This explosive player started 2013 with six consecutive 100-yard rushing games, on pace to eclipse Mike Pringle’s single-season rushing record. Yet he has cooled and has a sprained knee. With him, the Riders are Grey Cup contenders; without him, they’re one-dimensional.
Henry Burris (QB, Hamilton Tiger-Cats) – The 38-year-old veteran looks ageless and durable as the league’s leading passer with 3,765 yards. He’s on pace to toss for more than 5,600 yards – the finest stats of his CFL career – as he carries a young offence. He has Hamilton within striking distance of East-leading Toronto.
Fred Stamps (WR, Edmonton Eskimos) – Despite a tough season in Edmonton, this veteran pass catcher leads the league in receiving with 978 yards, is tied for second in touchdowns (nine) and has created a magical chemistry with inexperienced starting pivot Mike Reilly.
MOST OUTSTANDING CANADIAN
Jon Cornish (RB, Calgary Stampeders) – When this hard charger is rolling, there’s no stopping the team with the CFL’s best record. He’s averaging nearly 100 yards a game and forces defences to build entire schemes around him. Cornish is on pace to surpass the 1,457 rushing yards he gained last year, the single-season record for a Canadian.
Henoc Muamba (LB, Winnipeg Blue Bombers) – The 2011 first-overall draft pick has been a bright light in an otherwise dim season in Winnipeg. He’s third in the CFL with 68 tackles and has the Bomber faithful growing exceedingly anxious to see him signed to an extension.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Greg Ellingson (WR, Hamilton Tiger-Cats) – The unheralded free agent has found his place in Hamilton’s pass-happy offence, currently sitting third in the league with 800 receiving yards. He’s on pace for one of the most productive receiving seasons on record for a Ticat.
Mike Edem (S, Montreal Alouettes) – Last year, this player was in the CIS, and now he’s starting at safety in the CFL’s stingiest pass defence. He has chipped in five sacks for good measure, tops among the league’s defensive backs.
C.J. Gable (RB, Hamilton Tiger-Cats) – This former USC star is the CFL’s seventh-leading rusher and has nine majors, tied for second in the league. He has become Hamilton’s key all-purpose guy, tallying 1,047 combined yards.
Zack Collaros (QB, Toronto Argonauts) – Not only has this 25-year-old backup replaced injured star Ricky Ray, but Collaros has kept the Argos atop the East Division. In his past three starts, all wins, the CFL sophomore passed for 891 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for two more, making the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks take notice.
Mike Reilly (QB, Edmonton Eskimos) – His first year in the CFL as a starter is a strong one for the woeful Eskimos. He’s second in the league in passing yards (3,085), fifth in rushing yards (530).
Anthony Calvillo (QB, Montreal Alouettes) – Yes, he is hurt. Yes, he was caught in a crazy carousel of bad coaching and poor play calling early on. Still, there was something amiss with Calvillo when he was playing, a disconcerting dropoff in his game.
Travis Lulay (QB, B.C. Lions) – Signed to the CFL’s biggest contract in the off-season, Lulay never dominated and only threw two 300-yard games in 11 outings before injuring his shoulder. The injury isn’t his fault, but before the injury, he looked like a shadow of the guy who took Most Outstanding Player honours in 2011.
Chad Kackert (RB, Toronto Argonauts) – The 2012 Grey Cup Most Outstanding Player has been the unlucky recipient of two brutal hits that sidelined him on two separate occasions, but even when he was playing early on, he wasn’t the same back who expertly eluded tacklers last year.