six players taking up seven spots on the East Division all-star team. Avon Cobourne, Peter Dyakowski, Chris Williams (at both receiver and kick returner), Rey Williams, Luca Congi and Josh Bartel were selected for the team on Thursday.
The most unlikeliest of all stars has to be Cobourne. He didn't sign with the team until a week into training camp and was a healthy scratch for pretty much the entire first half of the season. But once he got onto the field, he was like a man possessed. His numbers were excellent, especially his 5.9 yards per carry, and you just saw it when he had the ball that he wasn't going to be stopped. I have been a fan of Cobourne's for a very long time and 2012 was just more proof that the guy is one of the best backs in the CFL. Now, let's just hope he comes back for a second encore performance in 2013.
I was a little surprised to see that Peter Dyakowski was named, but part of being selected as an offensive lineman is reputation. Not that Dyakowski had a bad season, far from it, but he missed the final month of the season with an injury and wasn't a world beater when he did play. Perhaps being named Canada's Smartest Person helped his cause because his was a name that people knew. Still, Dyakowski deserved an all-star nod the past couple of years, so it is nice to see him get one.
Chris Williams, at both receiver and kick returner, might have been the easiest selection for anyone to make. He had no challengers for kick returner and he was one of the best and most dangerous receivers in the entire league this year. Picking Williams was the no-brainer of all no-brainers.
There are a lot of people that aren't fans of Rey Williams. They point out that he is out of position a lot of the time and that his tackle numbers are skewed. Those are fair and valid criticisms, yet he still managed to be named an East Division all-star for the second year in a row. It was surprising that anyone from Hamilton's defense would be selected (though I think one person should have been and wasn't, but more on that later) but it doesn't surprise me that Williams was. His numbers were good, he led the East in tackles, and that goes a long way with voters.
Another more than deserving selection was Luca Congi. There was a lot of understandable concern over signing Congi this year. He was coming off an injury that saw him miss the entire 2011 season – though he was healthy enough to kick later in the season – and he was never a guy with a booming leg. He was also replacing fan favourite Justin Medlock, so Congi had very big shoes to fill. All he did was go out and have one of the best seasons a Tiger-Cat kicker ever had. Congi was perhaps the team's mos consistent player in 2012.
Punters often go unnoticed, and it is hard to figure out just who the best is at the position. Clearly Josh Bartel did enough in his rookie season to earn the recognition as the East Division's top punter. I'm not going to go on about him too much, but if this is just the beginning for Bartel, the future could be bright for him and the Tiger-Cats.
Of course, when all-star selections are announced there are always snubs and this year is no different. One curious snub is Henry Burris. I have been critical of Burris this season, but I recognize that he put up some outstanding numbers and normally that is enough to get a spot on the team. I was somewhat surprised to see that Anthony Calvillo was selected instead of Burris. Calvillo had a decent season, but I still thought Burris would (and maybe even should) have been named an all-star.
I was also surprised to see Dee Webb not make the team. I know it would be hard to select too many players from the worst defense in the league, but Webb put together a solid season despite the team's terrible defense and some of the players selected instead of him, such as Jovon Johnson and Jonathan Hefney, hardly had all-star seasons. A lot of the time, guys get all-star nods because of their reputation (think offensive lineman) and sometimes guys don't get them because of their lack of a reputation. I think the latter is the reason Webb was left off the team. (And before Winnipeg fans get their knickers in a twist, I don't mean any disrespect to Johnson or Hefney, but neither player had what you would call an all-star worthy season in Winnipeg.)
This is just the first all-star step. There are also the league all-star selections. Chris Williams will likely garner two spots once again. He will definitely be the kick returner, but he has a darn good shot of being named at receiver as well. Cobourne, Rey Williams and Dyakowski have little-to-no shot at the league selection. Congi and Bartel are in tough, but I give both a better than 50-50 shot of being named league all stars. I wouldn't be surprised if both were named, one were named or neither were named. The league will announce the CFL all-star selections in December and there will at least be one Tiger-Cat on that list.