The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have enjoyed an excellent start to the 2015 CFL season and hit the midway point with a 6-3 record, tied for first place in the East Division. Here’s a look at the team’s top performers so far:
Most Outstanding Player: Zach Collaros, quarterback
Collaros has looked far more comfortable in his second season with the Ticats, running the complex offensive system designed by head coach Kent Austin and co-ordinator Tommy Condell with efficiency. He leads the CFL in passing yards (2,632), second down conversions (65) and throws for 30 or more yards (19.) He’s second in the league in passing efficiency at 110.9, behind Toronto’s Trevor Harris, and — most importantly — has led his team to a 6-3 record so far.
Honourable mentions: Brandon Banks, Simoni Lawrence, Eric Norwood, Ted Laurent.
Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Simoni Lawrence, linebacker
Lawrence leads the team in tackles with 37 — he also has three sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery — and it’s his all-round versatility and athleticism that makes him so valuable. He’s tough against the run but has also been asked to cover receivers down the field in certain defensive packages. At 26, Lawrence was voted as a captain by his teammate and continues to play a leadership role.
Honourable mentions: Emanuel Davis, Laurent, Eric Norwood.
Most Outstanding Canadian: Ted Laurent, defensive tackle.
Laurent was the East Division’s top Canuck last season and he’s been even better this year. The Ticats have led the CFL in run defence much of the year (they’re currently No. 3) and Laurent has been the anchor in the middle. In addition to his three, he’s constantly collapsing the pocket from the inside or absorbing double teams, making room for others.
Honourable mentions: Ryan Bomben, Mike Filer, Mike Daly.
Most Outstanding offensive lineman: Ryan Bomben
Acquired in a draft-day trade with Montreal, Bomben has solidified an offensive line that was among the league’s worst in sacks allowed the last two seasons (they’re tied for fourth this year.) The Ticat line looked shaky after Bomben went down with an injury in the loss to Montreal, furthering highlighting his importance to the unit.
Honourable mentions: Filer, Jake Olson.
Most Outstanding Special Teams Player: Brandon Banks
Banks has three punt return touchdowns this season and is fourth in the league with a 12.4 yard return average. He’s been so effective, that teams have been actively kicking away from him the last several weeks. Though they wouldn’t be considered for this award, Banks also has a receiving and a rushing touchdown and has cemented his status as one of the league’s most exciting players.
Honourable mentions: Justin Medlock
Most Outstanding Rookie: Terrence Toliver
Toliver leads the team in both catches (34) and receiving yards (499) and has become a go-to guy for Collaros in the absence of Bakari Grant and Andy Fantuz, both of whom have missed several weeks due to injury. At 6-foot-5, Toliver is learning to use his height advantage over the smaller defensive backs in the CFL, and should get even better as he becomes more accustomed to the Ticat offence.
Honourable mentions: Ray Holley, Tiquan Underwood