The 2016 U Sports football all-stars were announced on Thursday evening during the All-Canadian Awards Gala presented by Sun Life Financial.
The event was held at the Hamilton Convention Centre as part of the ArcelorMittal Dofasco Vanier Cup, which will see the Laval University Rouge et Or and University of Calgary Dinos battle for Canadian university football supremacy Saturday at 1 p.m. EST at Tim Hortons Field.
Television coverage on Sportsnet / Sportsnet 360 and TVA Sports gets underway with pre-game shows at 12:30 p.m. The 52nd U Sports championship game is also available online through Sportsnet NOW and TVASports.ca.
Without any surprise, programs that spent the majority of the season in the national rankings – including all four conference champions – earned the most all-Canadian selections.
The Western Mustangs led the way with six all-stars, including four on the first team and a pair of second-team nods. They were followed closely by the Laval Rouge et Or (3+2), Montreal Carabins (2+3) and McMaster Marauders (2+3) with five apiece.
The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (3+1), St. Francis Xavier X-Men (2+2), Saskatchewan Huskies (2+2) and Calgary Dinos (0+4) all placed four standouts among the U Sports elite.
On offence, the first all-Canadian team is comprised of Regina quarterback Noah Picton, running backs Tyler Chow of Saskatchewan and Alex Taylor of Western, receivers Kaion Julien-Grant of StFX, Mitchell Picton of Regina, Louis-Mathieu Normandin of Montreal and Nate Behar of Carleton, centre Matthew Van Praet of Western, guards Geoff Gray of Manitoba and Zach Intzandt of McMaster, as well as tackles Vernon Sainvil of StFX and Jean-Simon Roy of Laval.
None are returnees from last year’s top unit but Taylor, Van Praet and Sainvil were voted to the second squad in 2015. Sainvil is honoured for the third straight season as he was also a second-team member in 2014.
Noah Picton became the first player in school history to capture the prestigious Hec Crighton Trophy as the most outstanding player in Canadian university football. In his third year as the Rams starting QB, the business administration student put together a season for the ages, setting a U Sports record for passing yards (3,186) and a new Canada West mark for completions (224), while also leading the country in touchdown passes (25) and completion percentage (69.3) in eight league games. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound pivot was one of the main reasons behind Regina’s remarkable turnaround as the Rams topped the Canada West standings with a 6-2 record, a year after going 0-8 in conference play.
Chow led Canada West in rushing yards (828) and rushing touchdowns (7); Taylor ranked first in the country in rushing TDs (10) and racked up 987 yards on the ground; Julien-Grant topped U Sports in all-purpose yards (1,558) despite missing one conference game; Mitchell Picton led the nation in TD catches (11) and ranked second in receptions (58) and receiving yards (834); Normandin averaged 76.6 yards per contest and 17.5 yards per reception; Behar was third in the country in receptions (57) and second in TD catches (9).
On defence, the first U Sports dream team for 2016 is made up of tackles Rupert Butcher of Western and Vincent Desjardins of Laval, ends Mathieu Betts of Laval and Michael Kashak of McMaster, linebackers DeAndre Smith of Saint Mary’s, DJ Lalama of Manitoba and Nakas Onyeka of Laurier, free safety Stavros Katsantonis of UBC, halfbacks Malcolm Thompson of Laurier and Malcolm Brown of Western, as well as corners Godfrey Onyeka of Laurier and Samuel Polan of Sherbrooke.
Betts and Godfrey Onyeka are returnees from the 2015 first unit. Betts (outstanding down lineman) and Lalama (defensive player of the year) also merited a U Sports major award for their stellar play this fall.
Butcher had 16 tackles in seven games, including five for a loss; Desjardins had 11 tackles, 4.5 of them in the backfield; Betts – the 2015 U Sports rookie of the year – topped the RSEQ and was second in the country in sacks (9); Kashak led the nation in sacks (11.5) and tackles for a loss (16.5); Smith had 45 tackles, including 11 for a loss; Lalama led the nation in solo tackles (54) and total tackles (72.5); Nakas Onyeka was second in the country in tackles for a loss (15); Katsantonis led Canada West and ranked second in U Sports in interceptions (5); Thompson also had five interceptions, tops in the OUA; Brown led the country in fumble recoveries (5); Godfrey Onyeka had four interceptions; Polan was first in Quebec in interceptions (5).
Rounding out the list of 2016 first-team all-Canadians, on special teams, were Montreal punter Félix Ménard-Brière, Saskatchewan placekicker Sean Stenger and Carleton kick returner Tunde Adeleke.
It was the second straight first-team selection for Adeleke, a speedy defensive back who led the country in punt return yards (734), punt return average (23.7 yards) and return touchdowns (5), including a spectacular 120-yard score off a missed field goal return in the annual Panda Game against Ottawa on Oct. 1.
Ménard-Brière averaged a U Sports-best 42.4 yards per punt, while Stenger topped Canada West with 22 field goals and ranked third in the nation with an 85 per cent success rate (22-26).
NOTES: Named to the second team on defence in his fifth and final university season, Saskatchewan tackle Donovan Dale became a four-time all-Canadian, including previous selections on the first unit in 2013 and on the second team in 2014 and 2015… Also members of the second team this fall, McMaster receiver Danny Vandervoort (first team 2015 / second 2014) Western offensive tackle Sean Jamieson (first team 2015 & 2014) and Calgary corner Adam Laurensse (first team 2015 & 2014) all became three-time all-Canadians.
2016 U SPORTS FOOTBALL ALL-CANADIANS
Pos. Athlete University Year Hometown Academics
QB Noah Picton Regina 3 Regina, Sask Business Admin.
RB Tyler Chow Saskatchewan 3 Calgary, Alta. Arts & Science
RB Alex Taylor Western 3 Winnipeg, Man. Kinesiology
IR Kaion Julien-Grant StFX 2 Toronto, Ont. Human Kinetics
IR Mitchell Picton Regina 4 Regina, Sask. Business Admin.
WR Louis-Mathieu Montreal 2 Montreal, Que. Administration
WR Nate Behar Carleton 4 London, Ont. Communications
C Matthew Van Praet Western 4 London, Ont. Kinesiology
G Geoff Gray Manitoba 4 Winnipeg, Man. Engineering
G Zach Intzandt McMaster 5 London, Ont. Political Science
T Vernon Sainvil StFX 4 Malden, Mass. Arts
T Jean-Simon Roy Laval 4 Quebec City, Que. Civil Engineering
DT Rupert Butcher Western 5 London, Ont. Huron College
DT Vincent Desjardins Laval 2 Quebec City, Que. Civil Engineering
DE Mathieu Betts Laval 2 Montreal, Que. Ph. & Health Ed.
DE Michael Kashak McMaster 5 Courtice, Ont. Labour St. & Political Sc.
LB DeAndre Smith Saint Mary’s 1 Dunn, N.C. Arts
LB DJ Lalama Manitoba 4 Winnipeg, Man. Graduate Studies
LB Nakas Onyeka Laurier 4 Brampton, Ont. Communications
FS Stavros Katsantonis UBC 2 Bakersfield, Calif. Arts
HB Malcolm Thompson Laurier 2 Windsor, Ont. Sociology
HB Malcolm Brown Western 5 London, Ont. King’s College
CB Godfrey Onyeka Laurier 3 Brampton, Ont. Biology
CB Samuel Polan Sherbrooke 2 Montreal, Que. Multidisciplinary
P Félix Ménard-Brière Montreal 4 Montreal, Que. Architecture
K Sean Stenger Saskatchewan 3 Saskatoon, Sask. Engineering
RET Tunde Adeleke Carleton 4 Ottawa, Ont. Communications
QB Derek Wendel Ottawa 5 Belleville, Ont. Philosophy
RB Jordan Socholotiuk StFX 3 Fort McMurray, Alta. Human Kinetics
RB Jayde Rowe Carleton 4 Scarborough, Ont. History
IR Austen Hartley Calgary 4 Calgary, Alta. Engineering
IR Mitchell Baines Ottawa 5 Ottawa, Ont. Social Sc. & Criminology
WR Dejuan Martin StFX 2 Scarborough, Ont. Business Admin.
WR Danny Vandervoort McMaster 4 Barrie, Ont. Sociology
C Levi Hua UBC 3 Abbotsford, B.C. Arts
G Samuel Lefebvre Laval 1 St-Lambert-de-Lauzon, Que. Business Admin.
G Ryan Sceviour Calgary 3 Calgary, Alta. Arts
T Evan Johnson Saskatchewan 4 Regina, Sask. Engineering
T Sean Jamieson Western 5 Winnipeg, Man. Kinesiology
DT Donovan Dale Saskatchewan 5 Saskatoon, Sask. Kinesiology
DT Junior Luke Montreal 4 Montreal, Que. Drug addiction (prev./rehab.)
DE Kwaku Boateng Laurier 4 Milton, Ont. Accounting
DE Jonathan Boissonneault-Glaou Montreal 3 Lyster, Que. Mechanical Engineering
LB Frédéric Chagnon Montreal 4 Montreal, Que. Administration
LB Jean-Gabriel Poulin Western 3 St-Nicolas, Que. King’s College
LB Alexandre Gagné Sherbrooke 4 St-Hubert, Que. Administration
FS Brandon Jennings Acadia 3 St. Albert, Alta. Community Develop.
HB Robert Woodson Calgary 4 Calgary, Alta. Arts
HB Adam Auclair Laval 1 Notre-Dame-des-Pins, Consumer Que. Science
CB Adam Laurensse Calgary 4 Sherwoood Park, Alta. Arts
CB Robbie Yochim McMaster 2 Kelowna, B.C. Social Sciences
P TJ Morton Toronto 4 Elkton, Md. Communications
K Adam Preocanin McMaster 1 Burlington, Ont. Humanities
RET Marcus Davis UBC 3 Victoria, B.C. Arts