Many people over the years have felt there's a senior bias with these award. That might have reared its head with at least one of OUA's individual honours. Laurier outside linebacker Giancarlo Rapanaro was anointed the conference's nominee for the Presidents' Trophy as stand-up defensive player of the year (why down linemen are lumped in with offensive linemen when single-platoon football became extinct 50 years ago is anyone's guess), but it is tough to see why. He is a superb player and a unique talent in that he's able to play linebacker at less than 200 pounds. There should be boundless appreciation of him since he never betrayed a word of bitterness over the Waterloo fallout costing him a chance to move to safety. (Waterloo transfer Mitch Nicholson, along with the younger Scott McCahill, each had good seasons back there.)
But defensive player of the year choice deserves a Seth-and-Amy Really?!. Stats do not say everything, but here is a comparison of five OUA linebackers and one defensive back:
- Player A — 37 solo tackles, 8 assisted tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 3 interceptions
- Player B — 50 solos, 28 assists, 9 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT
- Player C — 38 solos, 17 assists, 5 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 5 INT
- Player D — 24 solos, 34 assists, 5 TFL
- Player E — 35 solos, 22 assists, 6 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 INT
- Player F — 23 solos, 9 assists, 1 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 INT
Player A is Ryan Chmielewski of McMaster. Player B is Sam Sabourin of Queen's who was not even picked to the OUA second team but was selected top rookie.
Players C and D are the Western Mustangs' duo of defensive back Craig Butler (who also was credited with six pass breakups) and middle linebacker John Surla. Western led the OUA in total defence during the season (the OUA stats show Laurier in first, but post-season games have been counted, contrary to standard practice).
Player E is Laurier's own middle linebacker, Mitchell Bosch.
Now, tackling stats can be notoriously misleading. It's at the stat crew's discretion (which can vary widely from school to school). A tackle that limits the offence to a two-yard gain counts the same as one made 20 yards downfield. Players on a teams whose defences are on the field too much also get more chances. Who has the time to know when those stats were racked up, against a Top 10 team or against Windsor and York?
Still, the defensive player of the year is someone who was not even the second-leading tackler on his own team? He's not even on a very long list of the national leaders.
Butler or Surla were each better picks, going on principle the defensive player of the year should come off from the No. 1 defence. Or Bosch, given Laurier was ranked high.
However, Rapanaro is the lone fifth-year senior. In some eyes, having that reputation matters more than, y'know, actually having a great season. Reputation seems to be all that counts when these selections were made. It seems like with some of these accolades in some precincts, a fourth- or fifth-year player just has to be good enough and he'll get it as a sort of lifetime achievement award.
It's the same mindset that led to the corpse of Derek Jeter being selected as the American League's Gold Glove shortstop.
What chance did Bosch, a third-year player, or Butler, Chmielewski and Surla, each fourth-years (if memory serves), really have, let alone a true freshman?
Rapanaro is a fine player, but it's hard to take his selection seriously.
Why rant about it? This is stuff that goes right to the heart of convincing people this is a credible league to follow, people.