We've finished the September games this year, so it's a good time to check in on some early-season performances of note.
When we looked at the Hec Crighton nominees last year, we used a simple process to figure out who added more yards or touchdowns (or fewer interceptions or fumbles) than expected. The example given was Michael Faulds, who had 10.4 yards per attempt against Toronto: since every other QB had 9.4 yards per attempt, Faulds only got credit for that one extra yard. It's a quick way to control for the competition that a player faced (and pretty much the best way, given the limited CIS stats we have to work with).
What do the results look like so far in 2010?
Let's start with quarterbacks. For this list, we'll just look at total passing yards. For example, Brad Sinpoli threw for 345 yards in 38 attempts against Windsor. Windsor's pass defence against everyone but Sinpoli gave up 7.2 yards per attempt, or about 274 per 38 attempts, giving Sinopoli 71 surplus yards against Windsor. He also had 100 or more surplus yards against each of Western, McMaster, and Queen's. Add up all his games and you get 493 yards.
Passing leaders (total surplus yards)
1. Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa (+493 yards)
2. Kyle Quinlan, McMaster (+298)
3. Jean-Phillipe Shoiry, Sherbrooke (+257)
4. Laurence Nixon, Saskatchewan (+204)
5. Justin Chapdelaine, Queen's (+162)
6. Bruno Prud'homme, Laval (+112)
I'll cut it off there at 100 yards. Clearly Sinopoli is far above any other quarterback this year. We haven't considered touchdowns or interceptions or non-passing plays, but he's 195 yards ahead of the next-closest QB, and 195 yards are worth about 13 points in Canadian football (ask me why and I'll talk your ear off). Which means that Sinopoli, by this crude measure, has been worth about two and a half points per game.
Note that running lots of short passing plays won't necessarily make you look better in this ranking, because you're being compared against all other QBs who have faced that defence. So quarterbacks on pass-happy teams are not given more credit, unless they gain more yards per attempt than the average QB has against that defence.
How about the best receivers so far?
Receiving leaders (total surplus yards)
1. Jade Etienne, Saskatchewan (+223 yards)
2. Simon Charbonneau, Sherbrooke (+162)
3. Matthew Bolduc, Ottawa (+86)
4. Ryley Richardson, Saskatchewan (+82) (on only eight receptions)
5. Michael DiCroce, McMaster (+81)
Going beyond the top 5 doesn't mean much at this point of the season, so we'll stop this list here as well. The Huskies are doing quite well with the Jade and Laurence show, though, and it makes sense that we have more Marauders and Gee-Gees and Vert er Or players in this list.
Rushing leaders (total surplus yards)
1. Rotrand Sené, Montreal (+236)
2. Donnie Marshall, Western (+234)
3. Nick FitzGibbon, Guelph (+154)
4. Jeremy Hipperson, Western (+151)
5. Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa (+131)
6. Sébastien Lévesque, Laval (+120)
7. Eric Dzwilewski, Calgary (+117)
8. Nick Coutu, York (+109)
Just in case you needed any more proof of Western's special No-Pass offence.
Rotrand Sené is far ahead of Donnie Marshall in pure rushing yards, but he's also had twice as many attempts, and has played teams whose rushing defence isn't as good. So the difference between them dwindles down to two yards. Marshall, who seems more and more like a tailback playing quarterback, even outpaces his own team's leading rusher in this ranking.
Punt return leaders (total surplus yards)
1. Raphaël Gagné, Sherbrooke (+198)
2. Chayce Elliott, Ottawa (+153)
3. Craig Butler, Western (+124)
4. Daryl Townsend, Windsor (+108)
5. Nathan Coehoorn, Calgary (+106)
You know, for a 1-3 team that's fourth in its conference in points scored, Sherbrooke really has some offensive and special-team talent. (At least, they've had good results in their first four games.) If nothing else, we've now mentioned Raphaël Gagné for the first time on this site. This top 5 mostly mirrors the top of the unadjusted punt return yardage list.
Kick return leaders (total surplus yards)
1. Jeff Thompson, McGill (+183)
2. Chayce Elliot, Ottawa (+104)
3. Alex Anthony, Laurier (+62)
4. Chris Dobko, Calgary (+51)
5. Spencer Betts, UBC (+50)
Remember the confusion over Jeff Thompson not winning special teams player of the week? 143 of his 183 surplus yards came in that game against Concordia.
So that's a quick and simple look at some positional leaders so far this year. All of this will change as the season progresses: not only will players get more reps and more (or fewer) yards, but the teams they played against will play against other teams, changing the baseline for comparisons. (Put another way: if Sinopoli doesn't throw another pass this year, but Windsor's pass defence gets better in its remaining games, Sinopoli's stats will improve anyway.)