Intro to Canadian Studies: Is there a new top Canadian back after Week 12?

Photo courtesy: Michael Glasgow | Illinois Athletics

Intro to Canadian Studies is a little late this week, but give me a break — I’ve got my own online classes to deal with.

For this lecture, most of the themes are familiar to you by now. COVID-19 again set a new record for games cancelled at 17. Some Canadian stars fell short of expectations. Other lesser-known names stepped up in their absence. Rinse and repeat.

Nevertheless, the Top of the Class was as good as ever in Week 12. Settle in and let’s get started.

Top of the Class

1. RB Chase Brown, SO, Illinois Fighting Illini (London, Ont.)

This is turning into a bit of a trend.

Photo courtesy: Michael Glasgow / Illinois Athletics

Seemingly determined to creep up my list week after week, Chase Brown earns top honours for his best game of the season on Saturday. He was the go-to guy in a massive upset of Nebraska, rattling off 26 carries for 110 yards and two hard-nosed touchdown runs, while adding a 12-yard reception. It was as well-rounded a game as you will see from a running back, showing a nice burst, power and sound pass protection.

Brown finished with a solid PFF grade of 68.2, but he’s also beginning to raise some serious questions. With Chuba Hubbard continuing to struggle and now nursing an injury, does the best Canadian running back in 2020 reside in Illinois?

2. DE Daniel Joseph, SR, NC State Wolfpack (Toronto, Ont.)

In his entire collegiate career, Daniel Joseph had recorded just two sacks. So far this season, the brother of former CFL first overall pick Faith Ekakitie has racked up 5.5.

At least 2020 has gone alright for somebody.

Saturday was another stellar performance. Joseph got home for 1.5 sack, showing speed and power, and added another hurry as NC State squeaked by undefeated Liberty. Perhaps more importantly against the run heavy Flames, Joseph was gap sound and made five big tackles, recording a PFF run defence grade of 77.7.

Overall, he matched Brown with an overall mark of 68.2 and continues to raise his CFL stock to match family bloodlines.

3. MLB Geoff Cantin-Arku, SO, Syracuse Orange (Levis, Que.)

It’s been awhile, but Cantin-Arku is back at the top of the class. The stellar sophomore may be languishing on an atrocious Syracuse team, but he continues to make an impact.

After disrupting quarterbacks in the blitz game all year long, Cantin-Arku finally got home and made his first two sacks of the season in a loss to Louisville and added another hurry in a solid outing. The Levis, Que. native finished with five tackles and a PFF grade of 62.5, sneaking onto the podium on his pass rushing prowess.

Notes on the Margins

DE Paris Shand, FR, Arizona Wildcats (Toronto, Ont.)

All year long, I’ve raved about freshman pass rushing sensation Akheem Mesidor. I might have another freshman to talk about now.

That assessment of Paris Shand might be a bit premature — after all, he only played nine snaps against Washington. Still, the three-star recruit ended one of those reps with his first career sack. I’m sure we can’t expect Shand to take down a quarterback 11 percent of the time for the rest of his career, but the frosh is a player to watch going forward.

P Jake Julien, SR, Eastern Michigan Eagles (Barrie, Ont.)

OK, I’ll say it. Punters are people, too.

He’s unlikely to ever make it into the top of the class, but Jake Julien is pretty damn good at what he does. Last Wednesday, he booted it six times for a 44.2 average and twice pinned the ball inside the twenty, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Through three games, the Barrie product sits 23rd in the NCAA in average punting and has his team sitting 15th in the all important net punting yards category. If you are a fan of crisp punting, you should probably start tuning into MACtion.

Canadian prospects LB Grant McDonald, OL Pier-Olivier Lestage accept invitations to College Gridiron Showcase

Re-Submit Assignment

WLB Jesse Luketa, JR, Penn State Nittany Lions (Ottawa, Ont.)

Stats rarely tell the whole story and Jesse Luketa’s seven tackles do a pretty good job distracting from a poor outing against Iowa.

The highly-touted replacement for future NFL star Micah Parsons had a night to forget and, while he only missed one tackle, he was frequently out of position as his team got thumped by the Hawkeyes. He got out-muscled in the run game and gave up 50 yards receiving, more than any other Nittany Lion in coverage.

Luketa continues to be a talented player with plenty of swagger but he looks like he’s drowning as the Penn State team falls apart around him. The whole group needs to go back to basics if Luketa has any hope of the 2020 breakout he hoped for.

Class Attendance

REC Dominic Johnson, SR, Buffalo: 36 offensive snaps, zero receptions

TE Cole Burniston, SO, Buffalo: Five offensive snaps

RG Gabe Wallace, SO, Buffalo: Special teams only

RT Daniel Johnson, SO, Kent State: 64 offensive snaps, zero pressures allowed, one penalty

LG Sidy Sow, JR, Eastern Michigan: 69 offensive snaps, one sack allowed, one pressure allowed, two penalties

DT Mohamed Diallo, SR, Central Michigan: 61 defensive snaps, four tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss, one quarterback hit

OLB Tyrell Richards, JR, Syracuse: Eight defensive snaps, one tackle

FS Ben Labrosse, FR, Syracuse: 23 defensive snaps, three tackles, one tackle for loss

LT Matthew Bergeron, SO, Syracuse: 41 offensive snaps, one sack allowed

REC Damian Alford, FR, Syracuse: 11 offensive snaps

REC Samuel Emilus, JR, UMass: 50 offensive snaps, three receptions, 24 yards

OLB DK Bonhomme, SO, Indiana: 43 defensive snaps, three tackles, one hurry

WLB Enock Makonzo, JR, Coastal Carolina: 77 defensive snaps, six tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss

SS Sydney Brown, JR, Illinois: 64 defensive snaps, six tackles, one pass deflection

NT Samuel Obiang, SO, Texas State: 17 defensive snaps, one tackle

TE Bruno Labelle, SR, Cincinnati: 38 offensive snaps, zero receptions

LT Alaric Jackson, SR, Iowa: 77 offensive snaps, one sack allowed, two pressures allowed, one penalty

TE Theo Johnson, FR, Penn State: 22 offensive snaps, two receptions, 14 yards

FS Jonathan Sutherland, JR, Penn State: 30 defensive snaps, three tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss

REC John Metchie III, SO, Alabama: 46 offensive snaps, one reception, 18 yards, one touchdown

REC Terrell Jana, SR, Virginia: 24 offensive snaps, one reception, seven yards

REC Josh Palmer, SR, Tennessee: 55 offensive snaps, one reception, eight yards, one drop

RB Chuba Hubbard, JR, Oklahoma State: 26 offensive snaps, eight carries, 44 yards

MLB Amen Ogbongbemiga, SR, Oklahoma State: 63 defensive snaps, eight tackles

C John Kourtis, SO, Liberty: Special teams only

DE Luiji Vilain, SR, Michigan: 22 defensive snaps

LS Keegan Markgraf, SR, Utah: Special teams only

OLB Isaiah Bagnah, FR, Boise State: 50 defensive snaps, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit, one hurry

Rostered but not dressed: DE Reignings Awah, FR, Kent State / OL Jack Taylor, FR, Western Michigan / OL Deondre Dorion, FR, Buffalo / FS Woodly Appolon, JR, Northern Illinois / DL Cade Cote, FR, Central Michigan / DE Geri Theodore, FR, Toledo / DE Daniel Okpoko, SO, San Diego State / REC Barron Miles Jr, FR, Nebraska / REC Malick Meiga, FR, Penn State / OL Tyrell Lawrence, FR, Minnesota / CB Benjamin St-Juste, JR, Minnesota / LG Patrick Davis, SR, Syracuse / LB Nick Wiebe, SO, Oregon / LB Kenny Mestidor, FR, UCLA / DE Wilt Gabe II, SO, Coastal Carolina / DT Lamar Goods, FR, Florida / OL Leif Magnuson, FR, Arizona / QB Cameron Fietz, JR, Arizona / REC Jared Wayne, SO, Pittsburgh / OL Liam Dick, FR, Pittsburgh / REC Nick Mardner, SO, Hawai’i

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.