Nov 20, 2014
By Donnovan Bennett – Sportsnet TV Personality
Follow Donnovan on Twitter: @donnovanbennett
The Votes Are In
The Vanier Cup will be handed out in Montreal next week but that’s not the only fiercely contested piece of hardware to be awarded. With another historic and record-breaking CIS football season in multiple conferences, the individual awards will be just as heavily contested. A committee of coaches from each conference will congregate and debate on who had the most impressive year in 2014. You can make a strong case for all four nominees for coach of the year and most outstanding player, so weigh in on who you’d lobby for if you were in the voting room.
FRANK TINDALL TROPHY (coach of the year)
AUS: Kelly Jeffrey, Mount Allison
No coach has done more with less than Kelly Jeffrey. For the third time in Jeffrey’s seven-year career as Mounties head man, he has been chosen AUS coach of the year, also winning the award in 2010 and 2013. Jeffrey led the Mounties to an 8-0 regular season record and the program’s first-ever undefeated campaign. Finishing atop the AUS standings, the Mounties earned the right to host the 2014 Subway Loney Bowl, marking the first time since 1998 that they hosted the AUS championship game on home soil. Under Jeffrey’s tutelage, the Mounties were dominant, leading the conference in scoring with 234 points, in rushing touchdowns with 14 and in total touchdowns with 25 on offence. On D, the Mounties allowed the fewest point against in the country, giving up just 8.0 per game. Thanks to Jeffrey’s leadership, the Mounties also led the AUS in every major statistical category including total offence (2,702), yards per game (359.8), rushing yards (1,339), yards per rush (4.7), punt return average (10.6) and sacks (27), not to mention leading CIS in fumble recoveries with 13.
RSEQ: Mickey Donovan, Concordia
It was never a matter of if but when Mickey Donovan returned to his alma mater to be the head coach. His appointment was earlier than many had speculated but so were the results as the upstart Stingers started the year undefeated in their first four games, finishing with a 5-3 record. In his first year as a university head coach, he was named coach of the year in arguably the CIS’s fiercest conference. Just 10 years after being a Stingers player, he inherited a 0-8 team in February and completely changed the culture by the time the season started. To become one of the top coaches in your profession in nine months is unprecedented.
OUA: Stefan Ptaszek, McMaster
One of the brightest young minds in Canadian coaching is Stef Ptaszek. For the second time in three seasons, Ptaszek has secured the Dave ‘Tuffy’ Knight Award and thus is the OUA nominee for coach of the year. Coach P won the award in 2012, and receives it again after leading the Marauders to a 7-1 season and first place overall in the conference. Since coming to MAC in 2006, Ptaszek has a 54-18 record in the regular season. More impressively in his nine seasons at McMaster, the Marauders have never finished below .500 and have never missed the playoffs.
CWUAA: Brian Towriss, Saskatchewan
It seems year after year the legacy of Brian Towriss continues to grow. In his 31st year as a head coach of the Huskies, he led the U of S to a second-place Canada West finish and a 6-2 record. It is the 14th straight year Towriss helped the Huskies earn a playoff spot and first time they’ve hosted a post-season game since 2010.For the ninth time in his career, Towriss was named Canada West coach of the year. He has previously won the CIS award in 1994. The CIS all-time wins leader at 187 has been a coach on the Huskies staff for 35 seasons. He has led Saskatchewan to three Vanier Cup titles, 11 Hardy Cup triumphs and nine Vanier Cup appearances.
HEC CRIGHTON TROPHY (most outstanding player):
AUS: Brian Jones, inside receiver, Acadia
Acadia’s Brian Jones might be the best player in the country at tracking the ball over the middle. However, it’s not often a slot receiver walks away with the Hec. The last was Andy Fantuz in 2005. Jones hopes to change that fact. The Enfield, N.S. native broke a school record with 57 receptions for 639 yards, good enough to lead the conference. He now sits second in the AUS record book, as his 57 receptions in the regular season place him behind only former Hec Crighton nominee and Mount Allison MVP Gary Ross, who caught 60 passes in 2009.
RSEQ: Hugo Richard, quarterback, Laval
Hugo Richard might be the best touch passer in the country. In many circles, it was assumed Richard would eventually win a Hec as soon as he committed to Laval at this time a year ago. Yet, nobody thought he’d be in contention as a true freshman and set school, conference and league records. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound CEGEP legend led CIS in passing yards with 2,576, TD passes with 22 and TD-to-interception ratio, which was 22-4. He wasn’t far behind in completion percentage, finishing third in the nation at 65.4%. He’s not just a passing threat. On the ground, he did damage as well, leading all players in the Q with six rushing scores. The mechanical engineering student set RSEQ records for most TD passes in a game with seven and broke the previous CIS rookie standards for TD passes and passing yards in a season. The Vanier College grad also set a new program record for most yards in a game with 506.
OUA: Dillon Campbell, running back, Wilfrid Laurier
Dillon Campbell is the best every-down running back in CIS. Campbell led the country in rushing yards with 1,458 and touchdowns with 13, from start to finish in 2014. After leading the OUA in rushing in 2013, Campbell was the catalyst for transforming the Golden Hawks from a 1-7 team a year ago to a .500 playoff ball club in 2014. The Whitby, Ont. native was simply dominant, racking up 471 more yards than the CIS second-leading rusher, Mount A’s Chris Reid. Campbell rushed for over 100 yards in all of Laurier’s games, and rushed for over 200 yards on three occasions. His 293 yards in week 1 vs. Toronto was a school record. Campbell’s 13 touchdowns and 182.2 rushing yards per game were both CIS bests. His 1458 rushing yards in a season ranks sixth all-time in the CIS record book.
CWUAA: Andrew Buckley, quarterback, Calgary
Andrew Buckley might be the best leader in CIS. He might leave Montreal with dual hardware as he is also nominated for what would be his second straight Russ Jackson Award. After winning a preseason internal QB competition in training camp, Buckley reaffirmed Blake Nill’s decision by tossing 2,175 yards and 18 TD passes while adding 10 rushing TD’s. Buckley becomes the third consecutive Hec Crighton Dino nominee after teammates Eric Dzwilewski and Mercer Timmis also represented Canada West, earning nominations in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Buckley led the Dinos to team records in points with 419 (also a new CWUAA standard), touchdowns with 51 and total offence with 5082. He was the best player on the nation’s best offence that averaged over 52 points and 635 yards per game. He’s also prolific as a runner as he rushed for more yards than any other QB in the country. The fourth-year kinesiology student finished fifth in the conference in with 510 yards on the ground, averaging over 63 yards per game. His yards-per-carry average was the best in Canada West, and he led the league in rushing touchdowns with 10.
Follow Donnovan on Twitter: @donnovanbennett