The CFL released their list of team award nominees on Wednesday and the nominees for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats offered no real surprises.
The biggest one was the split in Most Outstanding Canadian and Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman. Brandon Revenberg was nominated for the former, while Chris Van Zeyl the latter. Considering both are Canadian and both are offensive lineman, it seems a little weird that one of them wouldn’t have picked up the nomination for both, but that’s a question for the voters.
The rest of the nominees — Brandon Banks for top player, Simoni Lawrence for top defensive player, Frankie Williams for top special teamer and Jaelon Acklin for top rookie — were all locks by about the two-thirds mark of the season.
So instead of debating who got snubbed or whatever, let’s take a look at just how far each Ticats award nominee can go, and we’ll start with the big one where a Tiger-Cat should be a lock for the award.
Most Outstanding Player: Brandon Banks
I’ve said it before numerous times and I’ll say it again here: Brandon Banks is a lock for MOP.
If his season-defining performance against the Alouettes last Saturday wasn’t enough, his numbers for the season should do the trick. He leads the league in receiving yards, catches and touchdowns, and is the most impactful player on the best team in the league. He has also put together some — pardon the pun — outstanding performances this year with eight 100-plus yard outings, and scores in 10 of the 16 games he has played so far, including his last six games.
You will hear chatter about Cody Fajardo, and while he has put together a stellar season, it hasn’t been at the level of the one Brandon Banks put together. Speedy B is your MOP. Period.
Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Simoni Lawrence
Despite what I am sure will be very loud protestations from inside a certain rectangular province, Simoni Lawrence is likely going to be the East nominee for top defensive player. It is really only Henoc Muamba who stands in his way.
For the league award, I suspect whoever comes out of the West will win it, but Lawrence has a chance if people put aside their anger towards him for something that happened nearly four months ago and look at the season he has put together.
He leads the league in tackles, has four sacks, three interceptions and, perhaps more importantly, leads it in defensive plays. He is the top player on the league’s top defence, and has been playing at an exceptionally high level since around just after he came back from his forced vacation.
I suspect Willie Jefferson or Charleston Hughes will ultimately win the award, but don’t count out Simoni Lawrence giving an acceptance speech in Calgary.
Most Outstanding Canadian: Brandon Revenberg
As much as I think Revenberg deserves to be recognized for another all-star-calibre year, I don’t think he takes the divisional nomination as that will go to Montreal’s Henoc Muamba.
In a way, I think that Revenberg and Van Zeyl splitting this nominations could hurt both men. I think Van Zeyl has lesser competition for his award than Revenberg has for his, but I think one of these men should have received both nominations.
In any event, I think the East nomination will go to Muamba regardless.
Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Chris Van Zeyl
Van Zeyl is one of three players I think could take the divisional nomination (sorry, Nolan MacMillan) and with the amount of Ticats I expect to receive divisional recognition, this could be one where voters don’t want to just hand every award to one team.
I think Van Zeyl has been the best offensive lineman in the CFL this year, but Sean McEwen or Kristian Matte could usurp him for the divisional crown. But if he makes it past the East, I think he has a very good chance of taking home the league award.
Most Outstanding Rookie: Jaelon Acklin
It’s a two-horse race for top rookie in the East and I think that race won’t be won by Acklin, but by Montreal’s Jake Wieneke.
Acklin bests Wieneke in catches (57 to 39) and yards (701 to 555), but the touchdowns are tilted heavily in Wieneke’s favour at seven to three. I think that will be enough to push Wieneke over Acklin for the East’s top rookie.
Not that it matters, because I think Vontae Diggs or Dakoda Shepley are going to run away with the award at the league level.
Most Outstanding Special Teams Player: Frankie Williams
Frankie Williams sewed up the East Division award in about September, and I don’t see Chris Rainey (Toronto), Richie Leone (Ottawa) or Boris Bede (Montreal) topping him now.
Looking league-wide, the race in the West will be interesting with two cover men in Nate Holley (Calgary) and Mike Miller (Winnipeg) receiving their teams’ nominations. We have seen voters reward cover men a lot more recently, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Holley or Miller took home the big prize at the end of November.
Of course, if Williams has a return or two against the Argos on Saturday, he would thrust himself right back into the conversation, and that could be enough to see him take home the league award. Leaving the last impression in the voters’ minds is sometimes the difference between winning and award or not.