Who I chose on my Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ awards ballot (and why)

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

On Wednesday, all nine CFL teams released their nominees for this year’s CFL player awards. I was one of the select few who was a Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ awards voter and in the interest of transparency, I have decided to make my ballot public, as I plan on doing every year I am given the honour of voting on these awards.

Each voter is given a first and second choice for each award so I will be divulging who my first and second choices were as well as any other players I considered for a spot on my ballot.

Here is who I picked for this year’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ player awards.

Most Outstanding Player

First choice: Tim White, receiver
Second choice: Jovan Santos-Knox, linebacker
Others considered: Seth Small, kicker

Up until a couple of weeks ago, this was a real conundrum. The Tiger-Cats were stuck in last place, not playing a particularly good brand of football and therefore choosing a player to call the most outstanding was proving difficult.

That was before Tim White went on a tear. White is currently first in the league in receptions with 94, fourth in yards with 1,265, and tied for fifth in receiving touchdowns with eight. Given what he has done over Hamilton’s last five games, four of which have been crucial wins, White became the obvious choice.

My second choice proved much more difficult and though I briefly considered making Seth Small my pick, I ultimately settled on linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox. The fifth-year defender, as you can see below, was my choice for top defensive player and given the lack of any other truly outstanding players on offence or special teams, the second-year Ticat was the pick almost by default.

Most Outstanding Defensive Player

First choice: LB Jovan Santos-Knox, linebacker
Second choice: LB Kameron Kelly, linebacker
Others considered: Richard Leonard, defensive back

This was perhaps the most difficult decision to make and while I considered Richard Leonard for quite some time, I came to the conclusion that recency bias — he has three interceptions, including a pick-six, in his last three games — was playing a large role in my consideration of him.

This came down to two players: Santos-Knox and Kameron Kelly. I don’t believe Kelly has gotten anywhere near the amount of press he should have (and some of that falls on my shoulders) but the second-year former NFLer is having one of the best seasons a coverage linebacker has had for the Tiger-Cats since Erik Harris was manning the spot almost a decade ago.

Santos-Knox, however, has taken on a larger leadership role with the team. It was noticeable in training camp in May and became even more noticeable as the season progressed and defensive leaders like Simoni Lawrence and Dylan Wynn were lost to injuries.

The 28-year-old also has the stats to back it up with his 105 tackles putting him second in the league behind Saskatchewan’s Darnell Sankey. It seems as if every time the defence needed a big play this year it was No. 45 making it, such as his pass knockdown in last Friday’s game against Ottawa that ended a drive late in the fourth quarter.

I would not have argued if Kelly ended up being selected because I think both players made a great case for the award but I went with Santos-Knox and I feel like that was the right choice.

Most Outstanding Canadian

First choice: Tunde Adeleke, defensive back
Second choice: Brandon Revenberg, offensive lineman
Others considered: Sean Thomas Erlington, running back

I struggled with my pick for best Canadian for a different reason than top defensive player: no Canadian for the Ticats stood out very much this season.

The Tabbies didn’t have a receiver with big stats or a bell cow Canadian ball carrier, nor did they have a defensive player who was filling up the stat sheet. Hamilton had a lot of solid contributing Canadians but none that screamed “outstanding.”

Due to that, my two selections may be more reputation-based than I would have liked, although I do think both Tunde Adeleke and Brandon Revenberg had great seasons this year, just maybe not the type that pops off the page.

Much like with Richard Leonard, after realizing that I was heavily weighing what he did recently, most notably on Friday in the Ticats’ big win over the Redblacks, I quickly moved on from making Sean Thomas Erlington one of my two selections.

Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman

First choice: Brandon Revenberg
Second choice: David Beard
Others considered: Colin Kelly, Coulter Woodmansey

Voting for Brandon Revenberg as the team’s top offensive lineman was fairly easy. He has played in 16 of the team’s 17 games this season and has continued to be one of the CFL’s best interior offensive linemen.

Finding a second choice was much harder. The Tiger-Cats have used 11 different starting offensive linemen this season, two of whom joined the team midseason and two of whom are no longer with the team. While I gave some consideration to Woodmansey and Kelly, I eventually landed on David Beard despite the fact he has only started five games.

In the five games Beard has started at centre the Ticats have allowed only four sacks and had two 100-yard rushers. His insertion into the lineup has changed the complexion of the team’s offensive line for the better and while I would not normally vote for a player with so few games with a team, it’s hard to argue that Beard’s acquisition hasn’t helped turn the Tiger-Cats’ season round.

Most Outstanding Rookie

First choice: Seth Small, kicker
Second choice: Lawrence Woods, returner/defensive back
Others considered: Kiondre Smith, receiver

Hamilton hasn’t played a ton of first-year players this year, especially on offence and defence. Looking to special teams is where we find our selections and if the season was six games long, Lawrence Woods would have won this in a walk. However, what Seth Small has done since coming back to Hamilton after being cut in training camp has been special.

Small’s 90 percent success rate on field goals is second in the league behind B.C.’s Sean Whyte. He is tied for the second-most made field goals from beyond 50 yards with Saskatchewan’s Brett Lauther with four, one back of Calgary’s Rene Paredes. He has missed just one convert and has felt as automatic as any kicker the Tiger-Cats have had since Justin Medlock took his talents to Winnipeg in 2016.

Woods had been excellent prior to his injury in August but has slowed significantly since then. I also looked at Kiondre Smith but his numbers just were not good enough. I think he has a long career ahead of him and the sky seems to be the limit for the University of Guelph alum but he was only worthy of cursory consideration based on his output this season.

Most Outstanding Special Teams Player

First choice: Seth Small, kicker
Second choice: Lawrence Woods, returner/defensive back

My picks for top rookie and top special teams player were the same so I don’t feel as if I need to explain more about why I chose these two in the order I did.

I am not sure how many Tiger-Cats players will receive consideration at the division level but if I did have to pick one it would be Small for special teams. Montreal’s Chandler Worthy is his closest competition and I know voters skew more toward returners than kickers.

With that said, Worthy has been great but I don’t think he’s been as outstanding at his job as Small has been at his. I will not be surprised when/if Worthy is named the East Division nominee but I do think Small is more than worthy himself of being voted into that honour.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.