Six Key Canadians to Watch on Sunday
Jon Cornish (RB, Calgary): It should come as no surprise that the CFL's Most Outstanding Canadian will be expected to have a major impact on Sunday's game. Cornish has averaged 98.6 rushing yards per game over his last 15 contests, including playoff outings of 109 and 112 yards...and the Stamps will need him to provide a similar ground presence this weekend. First of all, Calgary needs good first down production to stay out of obvious passing situations, where Argos defensive coordinator Chris Jones can unleash his nightmarish blitz package. This becomes even more critical with Kevin Glenn at quarterback, as KG doesn't have quite the same ability to extend plays as Drew Tate. If Cornish hurts the Toronto D early then Stamps offensive coordinator Dave Dickenson will be able to buy Glenn more time to throw, either by calling play action passes or simply by using the run to keep the Argo pass rushers honest.
Andre Durie (SB, Toronto): During his two-year tenure as Toronto's head coach, current Argonaut GM Jim Barker frequently described Durie as the most irreplaceable player on his roster because no other Argo could duplicate his skill set. That's high praise for a former CIS running back whom many people doubted would ever even walk normally again after a devastating 2005 knee injury. Despite that adversity, which sidelined him for two years, the York University grad has enjoyed his greatest CFL success as a receiver and remains very effective as a ball carrier. Last week, Chad Owens and Chad Kackert combined for 361 yards of offence for the Boatmen, making Calgary's defensive focal points for this weekend fairly obvious. Durie is, by far, the Argonaut who is best equipped to pick up the slack should Calgary effectively contain "The Chads". In fact, although Owens ultimately led the CFL in receiving yards and topped the Argos in receptions this season, Durie had virtually matched CO's offensive production until a Labour Day injury in Hamilton forced him to miss most of September.
Corey Mace (DT, Calgary): It has been five years since Corey Mace was tabbed by many scouts as the best prospect in the 2007 CFL Draft. His combination of size and quickness made him so coveted that he was a key component in three trades before he had played a down in the CFL, including deals that saw established stars Arland Bruce and Zeke Moreno go the other way. After spending three seasons with the NFL's Buffalo Bills, the Port Moody, BC native finally made his CFL debut with Calgary in 2010. He impressed in eight games after arriving midseason but his road to CFL stardom took another detour as he ruptured his Achilles on Opening Day 2011 and missed the entire season. However, Mace has rebounded in a big way in 2012, emerging one of only two Stampeder defenders to start every game in the same position this season. He, along with fellow Canuck Brian Bulcke and import Demonte Bolden, has solidified the interior of Calgary's defensive line and will be a key to limiting the damage inflicted by Toronto RB Chad Kackert and occupying double teams to free up defensive ends Charleston Hughes and Anwar Stewart for one-on-one pass rush matchups.
Chris Van Zeyl (OT, Toronto): A former star defensive lineman at McMaster, Van Zeyl has, over the last five years transformed himself into one of the CFL's best offensive tackles, along the way helping to reverse the trend of teams only using imports at OT. His primary assignment on Sunday is the unenviable task of keeping Calgary defensive ends Charleston Hughes and Anwar Stewart away from quarterback Ricky Ray. Part of the challenge for the Argos Most Outstanding Lineman nominee will be dealing with the contrasting styles of the two Stampeder pass rushers. In Hughes, he'll see a relentless, high motor guy, who has been the most feared pass rusher in the league since midseason, while Stewart is a crafty veteran of eight Grey Cup games, whose abbreviated three-game regular season included a 2012 league best four-sack outing against BC. Both opponents will require Van Zeyl to rely on past experiences for a little extra help. Facing Hughes will require him to use the athleticism that once allowed him to excel on the D-Line himself while, in order to deal with Stewart, Van Zeyl will have to remember the bag of tricks that "Big Stew" threw at him when CVZ was a rookie on the Montreal Alouettes practice roster.
Rene Paredes (K, Calgary): In Calgary's last Grey Cup victory, in 2008, the game's Top Canadian was Sandro DeAngelis, then known as the league's most accurate and best clutch kicker. It's not a coincidence that, as Calgary makes its return to the big game, that they again possess one of the most reliable legs in the game. Paredes, (a.k.a. El Matador) ranks as one of the top scouting coups in today's CFL. Completely passed over in a draft that saw fellow kickers Brody McKnight and Hugh O'Neill selected in the Top 12, Paredes was signed and subsequently released by Winnipeg last summer. He landed in Calgary when their 2010 first rounder Rob Maver went down with an injury. A year later, Maver is only handling punting duties for Calgary, and McKnight and O'Neill are both still waiting for a chance to hit their first career CFL field goals. Meanwhile Paredes, at 93 per cent, is the proud owner of the second highest single season field goal accuracy rate in CFL history. In what should be a close game, the Stampeders might take some comfort from the following stat. Paredes and his Toronto counterpart Swayze Waters attempted an identical 43 field goals this season. Paredes has made 40 to Waters' 32 successful tries (74.4 per cent).
Adriano Belli (DT, Toronto): A couple of months ago, "The Kissing Bandit" was well into his second year of retirement, enjoying a European holiday. On Sunday, he'll find himself playing a pivotal role in the Double Blue's quest to contain Calgary running back Jon Cornish. There will be nothing in Belli's postgame stats line telling you whether he's had a successful game or not...but if you see Argo linebackers Robert McCune, Marcus Ball, and Brandon Isaac or D-Linemen Armond Armstead or Ricky Foley making a lot of tackles near the line of scrimmage, it will be a testament to Belli's work. He's the guy who does the dirty work, eating up double teams so the aforementioned teammates are free to make plays...and it doesn't hurt that he might be the best in the league at getting under the skin of his opposition, particularly in an emotionally charged game like the Grey Cup.