Handicapping the Hec

The process of awarding the Hec is deeply flawed and stuck in the last century and yes, seven straight winners from the OUA is a little too much.

Having each conference announce its player of the year as the season draws down and having him stand as a Hec candidate does little to stimulate interest in the award during the season. One would think the CIS, which likes to talk about how to increase the name recognition of its players, would realize the value of promoting its most coveted individual award during the season.

South of the border, the Heisman Trophy hype has been going full bore since about five minutes after it was handed out last season. The Hec is never going to generate that kind of buzz in Canada, but it would be nice if there was some discussion over the award before Halloween.

Ideally, the award should go to a player from outside Ontario this season, but if Ottawa quarterback Josh Sacobie is the best choice, than so be it. That said, perception is reality. Having people tag the Hec as an OUA award should be addressed by the CIS, perhaps by a process that's more transparent and involves coaches, fans and the media from across the country. Seven years in a row for the conference in Canada's most populous province is way too much, although that's not meant as a knock on the players who've won.

Here's eight candidates -- two from each conference -- who are worthy of consideration:

Erik Glavic, Saint Mary's quarterback: The 6-foot-6 Glavic was mostly a curiosity last season, only becoming the starter late in the season before helping the hoops Huskies make an unlikely appearance at the CIS Final 8, where they upset No. 1 seed Concordia. Glavic has led the 4-0 Huskies past Acadia and Concordia after slow starts. He is among the country's most efficient passers and is the leading quarterback rusher with 312 yards, averaging 8.0 per carry. His stock depends a lot on the Oct. 20 interlocking game vs. Laval.

BenoƮt Groulx, Laval quarterback: Laval's little general has rate stats through three weeks that are just sick -- 75.3% completion percentage, 11.3 yards per pass and a touchdown every 8.1 attempts. The only thing stopping him from breaking the record for completion percentage would be four straight rainy weekends that would slow down the Rouge et Or's passing game.

How much of it is Groulx being good and how much is it the No. 1 Rouge et Or's competitive edge over pretty much everyone it meets before November? Quarterbacks tend to make their rep on wins in close games or leading a resurgent team (think 2001 winner Ben Chapdelaine at McMaster or 2002-03 winner Tom Denison of Queen's). In that regard, the Rouge et Or might not do Groulx any favours.

Jamall Lee, Bishop's tailback: A player with Lee's football genes (his dad, former Ottawa Rough Rider Orville Lee, is the last Canadian to win the CFL rushing title) is no more an underdog in this life than the people who were savvy enough to make Little Miss Sunshine on $8 million US. The appeal is similar.

It's fun to root for Lee, who plays for a Gaiters team that's been down on its luck for several seasons and is also located in off-the-beaten path Lennoxville, Que. It's similar to how you might have hoped Little Miss Sunshine could win an Oscar. Maybe-just-maybe he can win over an Ontario-centric media that can sometimes be as notorious for looking after its own as Hollywood. The numbers bear watching: 753 yards through four games, 9.5 per carry. By conservative estimate, Lee could go over 1,300 yards, which has never been done in the Quebec conference.

Jacques Lumbala, Saint Mary's tailback: Acadia QB Keith Lockwood has been half-decent but is probably too new to the Atlantic conference to have a shot at being its nominee, so the other J.L. out East is it. Lumbala (586 yards, 9.3 per carry) and Glavic present a dilemma. Their school's sports information department can only promote one player, so which one is it? Lumbala (586 yards, 9.3 per carry) might also lose out on chances to pad his stats if the Huskies, the clear class of the Atlantic, have a few blowouts.

Scott McCuaig, UBC defensive end: It's not strange a defensive player has never won the Hec -- most people associate with a glamour-boy QBs or tailbacks, who have won it 35 out of 40 times, so that limits their scope. Then again, a glance over CFL rosters shows plenty of D-linemen, linebackers and defensive backs from CIS programs, and of course, not a single quarterback, so why shouldn't defensive guys, who are more coveted by the pro league, get their day?

The 6-foot-4, 240-lb. McCuaig has nine sacks in five games, two shy of the conference record. If he ends up with 13 or 14 QB takedowns before the end of the regular season, wouldn't Canada West have to at least consider making him its candidate? That said, Regina's Steve Wilson and Alberta's Rhys Coppens have been good statistically on this side of the ball.

Ian Noble, Laurier quarterback: His backfield mate, tailback Ryan Lynch, is a fourth-year player and thus more likely to be hyped up by the Golden Hawks. Lynch is doing more or less what the Hawks had in mind with him running behind a very good offensive line, but Noble, a 70% passer, is exceeding all expectations. Ottawa's Sacobie is head and shoulders above him in reputation and career achievements, but should the Golden Hawks knock off the Gee-Gees on Oct. 13, things could change.

Josh Sacobie, Ottawa quarterback: He's a four-year starter on a No. 2-ranked team who is leading the country in passing yards and touchdowns. Simply put, Sacobie has the most name recognition of any veteran OUA passer or runner who's having a good season on a good team. He is the front-runner from to get his conference's nomination and doesn't stand to suffer from any perception he's a product of the system like Groulx will.

Anthony Woodson, Calgary tailback: Canada West had two of the top five players last season. This year, injuries and new linemen have deep-sixed the chances of UBC tailback Chris Ciezki. Regina and QB Teale Orban have decided it's better to pass for 250 yards and win than throw for 400 and lose. Woodson, who's on pace to top 1,000 yards as a sophomore, will probably be a fixture in any Hec hype in the next couple seasons.

Front-runners: Lee, Groulx, Sacobie
Strong contenders: Glavic, Noble, Woodson
Darkhorses: Lumbala, McCuaig

Why not...

... anyone from No. 3 Manitoba? The Bisons' balanced approach, splitting carries between RBs Matt Henry and Karim Lowen and not relying on QB John Makie to throw 35 times, hurts their stats.

... anyone from No. 5 Saskatchewan? QB Bret Thompson has more picks (4) than TD passes (2), which along with the Huskies' slow-chugging ground game has obscured his overall good play.

... mention Western's Randy McAuley? The fifth-year Mustangs tailback might end up having the quietest 1,000-yard season in memory (he's at 621, plus another 200 receiving, with York and Toronto still to play). McAuley was always touted as a pre-season Hec candidate when Western was still looked at as a contender, but now that they're 1-4, he's not in the discussion. Maybe he should be, but players from .500 (or worse) teams stand little chance.

A Hec of a controversy (Out of Left Field, Nov. 24, 2006)

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1 comment:

  1. After today's romp at Acadia, Lee is looking pretty much the frontrunner. No?