Ten players to watch this season

Brandon Banks

The 2015 CFL season kicks off June 25 with the Montreal Alouettes facing the Ottawa Redblacks. Here’s a list of 10 players to watch this year.

Travis Lulay – The 2011 Grey Cup MVP appeared in just one game last season, re-injuring his surgically repaired right throwing shoulder. Lulay, 31, threw for over 4,000 yards in 2011 and ’12 with a combined 59 TDs and 21 interceptions. He had 2,841 passing yards with 19 TDs and 11 interceptions in 11 starts in ’13 before being injured.

Bo Levi Mitchell – Mitchell guided Calgary to a CFL-best 15-3 record and league championship, finishing his first season as the starter being named the Grey Cup game MVP. Mitchell threw for over 3,300 yards with 22 TDs and just eight interceptions in 14 starts. Calgary looks to become just the third repeat Grey Cup champion since 1996-97.

Darian Durant – The Saskatchewan Roughriders were 8-2 in games Durant started last season but just 2-7 after Durant suffered a season-ending elbow injury. Durant, 32, had 4,154 yards with a career-best 31 TDs and 12 interceptions in 2013, leading the Riders to a Grey Cup championship at Mosaic Stadium.

S.J. Green – After three straight 1,000-yard seasons, the veteran slotback had 53 catches for 835 yards and four TDs last year as Duron Carter (75 catches, 1,030 yards, seven TDs) was Montreal’s big-play receiver. Green had six catches for 126 yards and three TDs in the Als’ East Division loss to Hamilton. And with Carter now with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, Green is expected to reclaim his position as the club’s go-to receiver.

Chris Williams – The standout receiver/kick-returner is back in the CFL with the Ottawa Redblacks after spending time in the NFL with New Orleans and Chicago. The five-foot-eight, 175-pound Williams was the Canadian league’s top rookie with Hamilton in 2011 before being named its 2012 top special-teams performer. Williams had 153 catches for 2,362 yards and 17 TDs while returning 90 punts for 1,198 yards with the Ticats.

Brandon Banks – The five-foot-seven, 153-pound Banks was a one-man show for Hamilton in the playoffs. He returned two punts for TDs – with another being called back – in the Ticats’ 40-24 East Division final win over Montreal. After a 45-yard TD catch against Calgary in the Grey Cup game, Banks had a late 90-yard return TD nullified by penalty, preserving the Stampeders’ 20-16 victory.

Austin Collie – The former NFL star is looking to resurrect his football career with the B.C. Lions. Collie had 179 catches for 1,908 yards with 16 TDs over five NFL seasons with Indianapolis and New England Patriots. The Hamilton native missed extended time in 2010 with a concussion and nearly all of 2012 the result of a torn patellar tendon.

Solomon Elimimian – The B.C. Lions linebacker has a tough act to follow. Last season, Elimimian became the first true defensive player to be named the CFL’s outstanding player after registering a league-record 143 tackles. He was also its top defensive performer. In 2010, the 28-year-old Elimimian captured the league’s top rookie honour.

Jon Cornish – Despite playing nine regular-season games last year, the Calgary Stampeders star claimed a third straight rushing title with 1,082 yards. That earned the New Westminster, B.C., native a third consecutive top Canadian award after being named league MVP in 2013. A 2,000-yard season is possible if Cornish stays healthy.

Pierre Lavertu – The second-year centre from Laval has some big shoes to fill. The six-foot-three, 298-pound Lavertu replaces Brett Jones, the CFL’s top lineman last year who’s now with NFL’s New York Giants. Calgary had high expectations for Lavertu when they traded up to take three-time All-Canadian first overall in the 2014 CFL Canadian draft.

– CP