Eastern Players Poised to Break Out

 

Part two of my prediction for 2018 breakout stars. As with the West Division, I’ve included comments from some of my Twitter followers. If you want to be featured in future articles, please follow me on Twitter (@plefko)!

 

East Division

Hamilton

Players to watch: Jalen Saunders (SB/WR), and Ryker Matthews (OL).

Saunders, a National Football League fourth-round pick in 2014, looks like the type of player who is perfectly suited to the CFL – diminutive and with tons of speed. He easily eclipsed 1,000 yards in his rookie season and is a perfect complimentary player to fellow receiver Brandon “Speedy” Banks. The two of them provide deep-threat potential and speed to burn. As a second-year player who is familiar with June Jones’ playbook, Saunders could easily become one of the top receivers in the league. Mathews fit in well last year coming from the National Football League and started nine games. The Ticats are really high on him. He became another player who fit in well in Jones’ system.

Toronto

Players to watch: Ronnie Pfeffer (K/P), Declan Cross (FB), Jimmy Ralph (WR), and Alden Darby (DB).

Ronnie Pfeffer beat out Swayze Waters for the Argos’ all-purpose kicking job. He has big shoes to fill after Lirim Hajrullahu left the Argonauts in free agency to go to Hamilton. Hajrullahu had some struggles early in his career, but worked through it to become one of the best in the CFL and scored the winning points in the 2017 Grey Cup. So now it’s Pfeffer’s turn to claim the job full-time. Cross is an H-back – a running back who can also be used as a receiver. Last year in his second season, he caught 36 passes for 366 yards and scored five touchdowns. He also caught some passes in the post-season and was on the receiving end of a couple two-point converts in the Grey Cup. He fits this Argos’ offence perfectly because quarterback Ricky Ray likes to mix up his passes and throw to his check-down receivers.

@TrevorSlashTEE touted National receiver Jimmy Ralph, whom he predicted “will be a star in this league very soon.” @ArgoDiva (Lori Bursey, whom I have known forever), sees Ralph as the “next Paul Pearson or Paul Masotti.” @TrevorSlashTEE also likes defensive back Alden Darby, whom he said is a “ball-hawk” who has both “hands and wheels.”

Ottawa

Players to watch: Corey Tindal (DB), and A.C. Leonard (DL).

Tindal, the Marshall University product, experienced an outstanding rookie season last year. In 16 games, he had 63 tackles, one sack, two interceptions and two special teams tackles. Leonard had 33 defensive tackles and five sacks in each of his last two seasons.

@CrankyClair touted running back/fullback Brendan Gillanders. He is efficacious in running with the ball as well as catching it; but mainly he is there to provide blocking against the blitzes of opposing teams’ defences.

Montreal

Players to watch: Eugene Lewis (WR), Mitchell White (DB), and Trey Rutherford (OL).

Lewis played two games for the Al’s last year and had seven catches for 120 yards. He’s also lanky and fits in well with another tall target, B.J. Cunningham, who developed into a star last year in his third season with career highs for catches (69) and receiving yards (1,128). White is in his second stint with the Al’s and has also played for Ottawa and Toronto. Interestingly, he has won 2 Grey Cups over the last two years. He was an East All-Star in 2016 and then signed an NFL deal. White has played 48 career games in the CFL and has seven interceptions. He is a part of a revamped Alouettes’ secondary. Rutherford was the team’s first pick, second overall, in the 2017 CFL Draft and has the versatility to play various positions on the offensive line. Trey also played some fullback in the University of Connecticut, which adds to his versatility in Montreal.

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