Another round of CFL nods came out on Thursday and this time, it was the East and West Division All-star teams.
Let’s just get this out of the way by saying there were a few eye-brow raisers in the bunch, but that’s what makes the debate fun.
Among the seven Winnipeg Blue Bombers chosen to represent the East were defensive backs Jonathan Hefney and Jovon Johnson.
While we are quick to appreciate their talents on the field and on the microphone in interviews, neither Hefney or Johnson lived up to their lofty standards this season.
Part of that was due to the fact both men took turns playing out of position at SAM linebacker, but there were probably a couple of more deserving candidates out there.
Having said that, in order for the Blue Bombers defence to get its “swagger” back, both Johnson and Hefney (a pending free agent who has said he’d like to come back if he doesn’t get another shot in the CFL), will need to have true All-star seasons in 2013.
For now, let’s focus on the five others who were recognized, including DE Alex Hall and DT Bryant Turner.
Hall was the best pass rusher on the Blue Bombers, racking up nine sacks in his first CFL season before he was sidelined by a knee injury. It’s clear he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in 2013.
Turner, meanwhile, made strides in his second CFL season and Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke said he was the leader of the D-line, despite his limited experience.
“It’s a big thing, coming from your head coach. It’s something I take pride in and I look forward to leading the defensive line,” said Turner said, who recorded three of his six sacks in the season opener against the B.C. Lions. “I’ve kind of adopted that role, since we had a lot of leaders leave. Somebody had to step up.”
On the offensive side of the ball, a trio of Blue Bombers were saluted: RB Chad Simpson, WR Chris Matthews and OL Glenn January, who made a smooth transition back to left tackle after getting recognized at right tackle in 2011.
“It wasn’t an accomplishment I was focusing on, but when you focus on the big-picture stuff, the individual stuff comes along on its own,” said January, noting the selection was merely a reflection on the growth of the entire Blue Bombers O-line.
January was the left tackle before suffering a torn pectoral muscle prior to the 2010 season, shifting over to right tackle for 2011.
“When I was coming back from my injury, truth be told, I was a bit disappointed I wasn’t going to get an opportunity to play left tackle again,” said January. “But I rolled with it and was able to have success on the other side. In the off-season, when I heard this was going to be a reality, with me being the left tackle, it was news I was excited to hear about. But at the same time, I was like ‘wow, I just got comfortable on the right side.’ Having to switch back over after you’ve taken two years away from the position was a difficult task, that was compounded by the fact I missed the two pre-season games and the first game of the season.
“When I finally got back out there, I was re-learning on the fly.”
The Montreal Alouettes and B.C. Lions each had 10 players chosen, while the Calgary Stampeders had eight, the Edmonton Eskimos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats had six (including a two-time selection in Chris Williams, at receiver and returner), while the Toronto Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders each had three.
Two Winnipeggers also were recognized as first time All-stars: Lions RB Andrew Harris and S Donovan Alexander.
Harris had an outstanding season, his first full campaign as a starter, picking up 1,112 yards rushing to go along with 718 receiving.
Prior to the season opener in B.C., Harris wasn’t shy about telling reporters that his goal was to be a 1,000-yard rusher and he reached that goal.
Alexander, who played for the St. Paul’s Crusaders in the Winnipeg High School Football League, had 43 defensive tackles, a forced fumble and four interceptions while starting all 18 games at safety for the Eskimos this season.
“It’s nice to be recognized for doing your job properly. It’s a really big honour,” Alexander told Edmonton Sun writer Gerry Moddejonge. “The essence of free safety is to be the last guy back, the safety net for everybody and just protect everything deep. If you don’t hear my name, it’s probably a good thing. That’s the way I like it.”
Here’s the entire list of CFL All-stars, voted on by members of the Football Reporters of Canada, CFL head coaches and CFL fans:
Feel free to weigh in with your opinions on who should have been on the team and perhaps who should have been left off.