While the prospects for a 2020 CFL season are still very much in limbo, Hussey’s Huddle is here to produce awesome content for everyone to get their football fix!
One aspect of our CFL content that we have and will continue to strive for is to shine some light on the league’s rich Canadian talent. Today, we go all-in on that goal by selecting an entire line-up of the CFL’s best nationals!
The rules for this one are relatively simple. We will largely mirror what the league does with its All-Star teams, with a starting line-up selected across every position. In total, by the end, we will have 27 players–12 offense, 12 defense and 3 special-teamers. Any player that is currently classified as a national on any of the CFL’s 9 rosters are eligible.
Some positions, obviously, have been known to showcase Canadians more than others, but there are at least options at every slot for us to choose from that are active in the league. In some cases, such as the offensive-line, there is plenty of depth for us to go into positional specifics. On the other hand, at a position such as defensive-back, there are many Canadian players but very few that play the specific positions of corner or half-back, with most playing safety instead. In these cases, we will do away with positional specifics and just go by a general position grouping of defensive-backs.
While making selections, age, potential and proven production were all used to weigh potential candidates. In close call situations, we tried to balance the mix of proven veterans with up-and-coming youngsters.
If you agree or disagree with our selections, we’d love it if you’d let us know in the comments!
Now, without further opening preamble, let’s get into it!
QB: Nathan Rourke, BC
Not much to chose on from here with only two rostered national passers in the CFL, so we’ll go with Rourke, BC’s 2nd-round selection in this spring’s Draft. Michael O’Conner, the other rostered Canadian pivot, would be a fine choice as well but this is just a nod to how highly regarded Rourke has been considered as a prospect.
RB Andrew Harris, WPG
The most obvious choice on this list. Harris will probably go down as the best Canadian running-back ever, if not one of the greatest Canadian football players in league history.
REC: Lamar Durant, BC
Durant has repeatedly been a consistent producer over his five CFL seasons, and is coming off his best performance yet in 2019 with BC, catching 57 passes for 810 yards and 5 touchdowns in 15 games.
REC: Brad Sinopoli, OTT
The most established Canadian receiver in the league, Sinopoli had a bit of a down 2019, but most would argue that was the result of circumstances out of his control. Expect the former Most Outstanding Canadian to rebound when he gets the chance to get back on the field.
REC: Nic Demski, WPG
One of my personal favourite players in the CFL, Demski is a do-it-all weapon. I love the creative ways that Winnipeg uses the local product, especially the last couple of seasons when integrating him into the rushing game.
REC: Hergy Mayala, CGY
This is where things can get tricky, but we’ll go with Mayala, a player who looks to have an extremely high-ceiling. Late last year the rookie out of UConn caught fire, establishing an impressive rapport with Stamps quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. In the team’s final five regular season games, the rookie scored 5 touchdowns. He simply has the look of a player that could become a star in this league.
REC: Tevaun Smith, EDM
Some close choices with our final receiver slot, but once again we’ll go the potential route with Smith, who showed that he was worth the wait for Edmonton after spending a few years down South. He struggled with drops and concentration at times, but the big-play potential is clearly there, and if continued to be paired with Trevor Harris, he could be destined for higher levels of success.
OT: Chris Van Zeyl, HAM
The clear-cut best Canadian tackle in the game, if not the best offensive-lineman overall. The product of McMaster is now-36-years-old, but is aging like fine wine in helping anchor a lethal Hamilton offense.
OT: Kyle Saxelid, EDM
This one may raise some eyebrows. First thing to note here is that there aren’t that many Canadian starting tackles in the CFL currently, with most occupying guard and center spots. That being said, Saxelid, Edmonton’s 2nd-round selection in 2019, was a stud as a rookie. Forced into a role at left-tackle due to injuries, the UNLV product more than held his own protecting Trevor Harris’ blindside. He may not start next season with SirVincent Rogers returning from injury, but I believe his flashed potential from 2019 will force Edmonton to find ways to get him on the field.
G: Shane Bergman, CGY
Another no brainer here, with Bergman being a staple on one of the consistently-best offensive lines in the league over the past half-decade. He isn’t the most fleet of foot, but often puts himself in great position. When he gets his hands on a defender, he is an eraser, allowing for him to showcase his elite play-strength.
G: Brandon Revenberg, HAM
We’ve been evaluating tape of offensive-lineman from 2019, and not one player has stood out more than Revenberg, the Ticats’ starting left-guard. In the graphic above, we evaluated all pass-blocking snaps from his 2019 Week 1 game against Saskatchewan, where, by our count, he pitched a shutout in going against a strong Roughriders’ interior.
C: Michael Couture, WPG
There are various options at the center position, ranging from established veterans like Ottawa’s Alex Mateas, or Edmonton’s David Beard, but we are banking on Couture. Quietly groomed over his first three CFL seasons, the Simon Fraser product became the Bombers’ full-time starter at the pivot, starting all 18 games and displaying a knack for punishing run-blocks for Winnipeg’s top-ranked ground-game. What really stands out to me when comparing him to other CFL interior lineman is his mobility, allowing him to make an impact on move-blocks and in the screen-game.
DE: Kwaku Boateng, EDM
Defensive-end is a weak-spot for Canadian talent in the CFL, but Boateng is the clear exception. One of the best draft-steals in recent memory after being selected in the 5th-round in 2017 out of Wilfred Laurier, he has become a ferocious pass-rusher for arguably the league’s top defensive-line. In all, he has an impressive 21 sacks over his first three campaigns, but even those numbers don’t do justice for his overall impact.
DE: Robbie Smith, TOR
Not much to choose from for our other end spot, with this largely boiling down to Smith and Edmonton’s Mathieu Betts. Ultimately, we’ll go with Smith, who like Betts was in his first CFL season in 2019. He was a rare bright-spot on Toronto’s defense a a rookie, producing 4 sacks as part of the rotation. It will interesting to see if he and Betts can make a big jump in year-two.
DT: Ted Laurent, HAM
Laurent has long been an intimidating presence along Hamilton’s defensive front, where he acts as an immovable object on the inside. Possessing such great strength at the point of attack, he is a dominant run-defender who also provides above-average pass-rush ability for the position.
DT: Cleyon Laing, OTT
Laing is a ratio-breaking defensive-lineman that was an excellent free agent signing by Ottawa this offseason. While also a stellar run-defender, Laing really shines as a pass-rusher, as evidenced by his 33 career sacks from the inside, including another 7 last season in Toronto. He instantly gives Ottawa an elite presence upfront that they were desperately lacking in 2019.
LB: Cameron Judge, SSK
This is where things get fun. Judge has become one of the most impactful defenders in the CFL, with an all-around skill-set that you just love to see. He is hard-hitting as a run-defender, but is also athletic and instinctive enough to step-back into coverage and make an impact. He is also an excellent special-teamer, to boot.
LB: Henoc Muamba, MTL
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the league’s reigning Most Outstanding Canadian, Muamba. A fierce middle-linebacker, the STFX product is Montreal’s heart and soul on defense, becoming a tackling-machine that can roam sideline-to-sideline, which is incredibly valuable on the CFL’s extra-wide playing surface.
LB: Jordan Herdman-Reed, BC
We could have went a number of directions in this space but the pick is Jordan Herdman-Reed, not to be confused for his also-talented twin brother Justin. Jordan has done nothing but produce since being plucked in the 7th-round by the Lions in 2017, becoming a linebacker who is not only a rock-solid tackler but also can contribute in kick-coverage on special-teams.
DB: Tunde Adeleke, HAM
When it comes to defensive-backs, this is where we have to flex the definition of positional versatility, as while there are several quality Canadian defensive-backs, most of them play safety and not on the perimeter. One of these players is Adeleke, who really broke out in his third CFL season en-route to a 2019 All-Star Selection. He is a guy you can usually trust in coverage due to his smooth athleticism, which is why he could potentially play half-back or corner in this hypothetical defense.
DB: Royce Metchie, CGY
Metchie, another safety, is already a stud for the Stampeders. It helps that he is a player who excels in coverage, with the fluid athleticism that allows for impressive closing speed. We’re excited to see how he follows up his impressive Sophomore campaign in the future.
DB: Mike Edem, SSK
Edem is more of a classic box-safety that really packs a punch. He isn’t the best coverage player when isolated, but is far from a liability in that regard. Where the long-time vet truly stands out is being used as a chess piece in blitz packages, which Saskatchewan did so well last season.
DB: Isaiah Guzlak-Messam, BC
Probably the best and most versatile athlete of this group, Guzlak-Messam is just getting started in the CFL. There’s a decent chance the Lions decide to use him as their strong-side linebacker, as he possesses both the speed and size to hang with some of the league’s more talented athletes. The Hamilton native would capably fill one of the half-back spots in this defense if given the chance.
DB: Taylor Loffler, MTL
Such a tough decision here for the final spot in the secondary, with both veterans and youngsters being worthy. In the end though, we just couldn’t leave Loffler off this list. Though he is coming off a season-ending injury in 2019 with Montreal, he is the most proven Canadian playmaker at defensive-back in the league, with elite coverage instincts. In four CFL seasons, he has 9 interceptions and 8 forced fumbles in 56 career games, all while being named to three consecutive All-Star teams from 2016-2018.
K: Lewis Ward, OTT
Ward is quite simply a remarkable player, and even as a kicker should be considered in the conversation for the best Canadian player in the CFL currently. In 2018, he connected on 51 of 52 field goals, good for over 98%, which is just insane.
P: Jon Ryan, SSK
Though Ryan is 38, this doesn’t take away from the fact that he is still an outstanding punter, which he showcased in his return to the CFL last season. The long-time member of the NFL’s Seahawks notched the highest punting average in the league last season at 48.8.
RETURNER: Dejon Brissett, TOR
Selecting a returner in this slot is hard based largely on the fact that very few Canadians got opportunities in this role last season. That is why we are going with Brissett, who I have gone on record previously saying could make an impact in this form as a rookie. While at the University of Richmond, he was a dynamic returner when used, running back both kicks and punts. He even scored a touchdown during his injury-shortened 2018 season with the Spiders.
Who got SNUBBED from our All-Canadian Team?
Let us hear it!
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