When the team nominees for the Most Outstanding Player awards were announced last Wednesday, I figured I would add my two cents and pick the players I think were the most outstanding in 2010.
Most Outstanding Player
West Nominee: Henry Burris (QB, Calgary Stampeders)
East Nominee: Cory Boyd (RB, Toronto Argonauts)
I think there are really only four legitimate candidates for MOP: Burris, Boyd, Anthony Calvillo and Kevin Glenn. One could make a case for any of those four, and it would be compelling enough for me to probably agree with it.
When stacking up the 2010 résumés of Boyd and Burris, I think the advantage goes to the Calgary pivot. If this award was for Most Valuable Player, I think I'd give it to Boyd. Without him, the Argos simply cannot win. But this isn't MVP, it's MOP, and no one has been more outstanding this season than Henry Burris.
Winner: Henry Burris
Most Outstanding Defensive Player
West Nominee: James Patrick (S, Saskatchewan Roughriders)
East Nominee: Markeith Knowlton (LB, Hamilton Tiger-Cats)
There were many outstanding defensive performances this season. Whether it was Philip Hunt and Odell Willis making life miserable for opposing Quarterbacks, or whether it was Jamall Johnson, Barrin Simpson and Kevin Eiben tackling anything that came within a 10-yard radius of them, or whether it was Chip Cox taking the heads off people with crushing hits, there were plenty of players worthy of garnering consideration as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player for 2010.
In the end I settled on two guys: James Patrick and Markeith Knowlton.
Patrick was the ballhawk to end all ballhawks this season, leading the league in interceptions, with nine. His play, especially at the beginning of the season, was outstanding.
Knowlton's stats don't wow anyone individually, but taken together, they are phenomenal: 71 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions, four forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, two blocked kicks and one touchdown. Those numbers are out of this world.
In my mind, there has not been a more outstanding defensive player this CFL season than Markeith Knowlton.
Winner: Markeith Knowlton
Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman
West Nominee: Ben Archibald (T, Calgary Stampeders)
East Nominee: Marwan Hage (C, Hamilton Tiger-Cats)
I have said it time and time again: this is the hardest award to choose nominees for. The best Offensive Linemen produce in relative anonymity.
So how best to judge an Offensive Lineman? I say by looking at the numbers of the player they are charged with protecting (Quarterback) and blocking for (Running Back).
Both Calgary and Hamilton have put up fantastic numbers in the passing game. Kevin Glenn threw for over 5,000 yards, and Henry Burris nearly did. Burris led the league in TD passes (38), and Glenn finished second (33).
Both Calgary and Hamilton had 1,000+ yard rushers in Joffrey Reynolds and DeAndra' Cobb, respectively.
The Cats also allowed a league-low 26 sacks. Considering 11 of those came in two game (Week 1 vs. Winnipeg; Week 4 vs. Montreal), that means the Cats allowed only 15 in the remaining 16 games. That's pretty remarkable.
With everything being equal, I'm going with Hage because he's the leader of the Line that gave up so few sacks.
Winner: Marwan Hage
Most Outstanding Canadian
West Nominee: Andy Fantuz (SB, Saskatchewan Roughriders)
East Nominee: Dave Stala (SB, Hamilton Tiger-Cats)
At mid-season I pegged Fantuz as the West nominee and Stala as the East nominee. I felt that at mid-season, these two were still the best Canadians in the league at any position, so my position at the start of the season had not moved an inch.
At the end of the season, I've got Fantuz as the West nominee and Stala as the East nominee. After 18 games, I don't think any other Canadians have outproduced, or been as important as, Fantuz and Stala.
Fantuz became the first Canadian to lead the league in receiving since 1995 (Dave Sapunjis), and he was the go-to guy for the Riders in 2010. While Stala had perhaps his best season, Fantuz's season was even better.
Winner: Andy Fantuz
Most Outstanding Special Teams Player
West Nominee: Yonus Davis (RB, BC Lions)
East Nominee: Chad Owens (WR, Toronto Argonauts)
I was going to wax poetic about this award, but this one is such a no-brainer that it would be a waste of my time to write anything and of your time to read it. Anyone who picks anybody but Chad Owens either hates the Argos so much that they let their biases blind them (as I was recently accused of) or they're an idiot. Since I am most definitely not an idiot, Owens wins this one without an argument.
Winner: Chad Owens
Most Outstanding Rookie
West Nominee: Solomon Elimimian (LB, BC Lions)
East Nominee: Marcus Thigpen (RB, Hamilton Tiger-Cats)
To make an impact as a rookie in the CFL is not easy to do. Players who come from the United States have to get used to vastly different rules than they have been playing with since they were children. Solomon Elimimian and Marcus Thigpen have made it look easy.
As a rookie, Elimimian led the BC Lions in tackles, and was also voted by players as the Hardest Hitter in a recent TSN poll. For a player to garner that much respect in his rookie season is nothing short of amazing.
In his first season, Thigpen scored a touchdown in five different ways – rushing, receiving, punt return, kick return and missed field goal return – which is something no player had ever done before. Thipgen, on his first touch, took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown in Week 1 against Winnipeg.
Not many players set records in their professional careers, and Thigpen did it in his first year. For that reason alone, he is the top rookie.
Winner: Marcus Thigpen
Coach of the Year
Nominee 1: John Hufnagel (Calgary Stampeders)
Nominee 2: Jim Barker (Toronto Argonauts)
Nominee 3: Marc Trestman (Montreal Alouettes)
I'm giving this one to Jim Barker. What he has done in Toronto this season is beyond remarkable. He took a team that had won seven games in the previous two seasons, combined, and got them to nine wins and a playoff berth.
The job Barker did this year is nothing short of amazing, and he deserves to be recognized for the tremendous job he has done. He is my Coach of the Year.
Winner: Jim Barker