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Ed Tait – @EdTaitWFC

 

Sometime in the next week or so, the ballots for the Canadian Football League’s Most Outstanding Player Awards will be distributed to The Football Reporters of Canada and the nine head coaches who vote on the loop’s prestigious individual honours.

And, as someone who was privileged enough to have been selected to vote in years past, the arrival of the ballots annually does a couple of things:

First, it means voters begin to do more homework as the CFL’s regular season hits the final couple of weeks in preparation for the three rounds of voting – nominating team winners, then East and West divisional reps and, finally, the overall league-wide award recipients.

Second, it usually means the voters get the occasional e-mail from fans that begins with: ‘Dear Moron… How in the (bleep) could you vote for (bleep), when (bleep) is clearly the obvious (bleeping) choice?!’

Or words to that effect.

Now, what we’re trying to do here is give fans a vote in this – as unofficial as it may be – with our first annual Blue Bombers Fans Choice Awards. It’s a chance for faithful of the Blue and Gold to have their say and, as a bonus, for three participants to walk away from the exercise with some goodies: Gift cards of $100, $50 and $25 from the Bomber Store (drawn randomly from entrants).

The CFL’s awards salute six winners:

  • Most Outstanding Player
  • Most Outstanding Canadian Player
  • Most Outstanding Defensive Player
  • Most Outstanding Rookie
  • Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman
  • Most Outstanding Special Teams Player

 

What follows is a bit of a primer to the potential Bomber award nominees (with last year’s winners in brackets). We’re not going to list all the players eligible for each award as that becomes too cumbersome but, instead, provide a look at five candidates in each of the categories.

So, gather ‘round fans, roll up your sleeves and give the voting a shot in our First Annual Blue Bombers Fans Choice Awards…

MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER 

(last year: Jamaal Westerman)

  1. K Justin Medlock: What’s this? You don’t think kickers should be eligible? He’s been absolutely worth every penny for the Bombers this season and has a shot at the CFL’s field goal record.
  2. QB Matt Nichols: He’s 9-2 as a starter since replacing Drew Willy and has thrown for 3,078 yards and 15 TDs – both career highs – against just five interceptions. A fiery leader who has his troops following.
  3. RB Andrew Harris: The Winnipeg product has 816 yards rushing – third in the league, despite missing three games – and has also pulled in 57 passes for 511 yards. His leadership and pure will has driven the offence at times this season.
  4. SB/WR Weston Dressler: Has 70 receptions for 887 yards and two TDs, despite missing four games, and still has a shot at the sixth 1,000-yard season in his career.
  5. SB Clarence Denmark: He’s morphed into a TD machine in his rebirth with the Bombers, with eight scores in nine games. Has 49 receptions for 647 yards in becoming one of Nichols’ favourite targets.

 

Justin Medlock (9) and Matt Nichols (15) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game against the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon stadium in Calgary, AB. Friday, July 1, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

MOST OUTSTANDING CANADIAN PLAYER 

(last year: Jamaal Westerman)

  1. RB Andrew Harris: See above. The fact that he is homegrown has been a bonus for the Bombers Canadian talent and ratio flexibility.
  2. DE Jamaal Westerman: His sack totals are down from last year (17 to 7), but he’s consistent, durable and an emotional leader.
  3. S Taylor Loffler: Replaced an injured Macho Harris early in the season and now won’t give up the starting safety gig. Will also be a serious candidate for top rookie.
  4. C Matthias Goossen: Very solid in his first full year as the Bombers’ starting centre.
  5. RG Sukh Chungh: Injured in the win in Vancouver, but he’s been everything as advertised: a tough hombre who was ready to start as a rookie last season.

 

Andrew Harris (33) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Marc-Olivier Brouillette (10) of the Montreal Alouettes during the game at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, MB. on Friday, June 24, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

MOST OUTSTANDING DEFENSIVE PLAYER: 

(last year: guess who? Jamaal Westerman)

  1. DE Jamaal Westerman: Still gets after it, still being game-planned to run away from by offensive coordinators around the league.
  2. DB Kevin Fogg: The Bombers tackle leader, he’s chipped in with four interceptions, a sack, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
  3. LB/DB Maurice Leggett: Tied for the league lead in interceptions – three of them for touchdowns – has added a quarterback sack and two fumble recoveries.
  4. LB Khalil Bass: Has done a little bit of everything from the middle of the Bomber D, with 72 tackles – second to Fogg, four sacks, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
  5. LB Ian Wild: Has missed four games, but before that was a tackling machine (70) and has also been all around the ball.

 

Maurice Leggett (31) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game against the Montreal Alouettes at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, MB. on Friday, June 24, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

MOST OUTSTANDING ROOKIE 

(last year: Khalil Bass)

  1. DB Kevin Fogg: Is playing one of the most difficult positions in a defence at halfback, leads the team in tackles and, on top of all that, has returned punts.
  2. S Taylor Loffler: So much to like with his game. He’s part playmaker, part old-school hitter at safety.
  3. DE Trent Corney: Both Fogg and Loffler are the favourites, but Corney is getting more and more snaps in his first season.
  4. SB/WR Thomas Mayo: OK, so we’re reaching a bit here. Mayo has only played in five games, but does have 24 receptions for 277 yards and a TD.
  5. OL Michael Couture: He’s going to be a good one, but has spent his first year as the O-line’s sixth man.

 

Winnipeg Blue Bombers Kevin Fogg (23) and Edmonton Eskimos Chris Getzlaf (89) battle for the ball during first half CFL action in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday July 28, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.

MOST OUTSTANDING OFFENSIVE LINEMAN 

(last year: Stanley Bryant)

  1. LT Stanley Bryant: Technically sound, doesn’t get beat often.
  2. LG Travis Bond: He’s a beast whose insertion at guard after the injury to Patrick Neufeld has transformed the line.
  3. C Matthias Goossen: He’s just 24 and could play another 10 years.
  4. RG Sukh Chungh: Every O-line needs some nasty and the second-year hog brings it.
  5. RT Jermarcus Hardrick: Has settled in at right tackle, but can also play guard. His infectious enthusiasm has lifted this crew.

 

Stanley Bryant (66) of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the game against the Montreal Alouettes at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, MB. on Friday, June 24, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)

MOST OUTSTANDING SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER 

(last year: Troy Stoudermire)

  1. K Justin Medlock: The field goal thing we all know about, but he’s also an under-rated punter.
  2. KR Kevin Fogg: He’s fourth in the CFL in punt-return yards but, oh, what could have been with four called back.
  3. KR Quincy McDuffie: Now seventh in the league in kickoff-return yards and a TD, despite missing five games.
  4. LB Tony Burnett: Leads the Bombers with 17 special-teams tackles – fifth-best in the league.
  5. LS Chad Rempel: The best snapper in the league, period.