Between The Goalposts; 2023 CFL Special Teams Awards

The 2023 CFL season has wrapped up its thrilling 24-week journey. Among all of the amazing plays that unfolded, Special Teams took center stage in my book, and I’m eager to discuss that. This time around, there’s a shift in focus—I’ve expanded my coverage from just Kickers and Punters to encompass the entirety of Special Teams. Without further ado, I welcome you to the 2nd annual Between The Goalposts Special Teams Awards!


Kicker of the Year: Sean Whyte (BC)

BC Lions Kicker Sean Whyte being lifted into the air after a game-winning Field Goal

It’s tough to argue against Sean Whyte as the best to do it this year. Whyte had the best season of his career, going 50/53 (94.3%) on field goals and 44/45 (97.7%) on extra points. Sean was perfect on all 25 attempts under 40 yards and put together a truly remarkable performance by connecting on 23/24 of his attempts between 40 and 50 yards. His two other misses came from 50+ yards, which was the only weak point in Sean’s season, as he went 2/4. Whyte’s longest field goal of the season was good from 51 yards out, and he also managed to string together 23 field goals in a row; the longest streak the CFL saw all season. Congratulations Sean Whyte, you are the 2023 Between The Goalposts Kicker of the Year!

Runner-ups;

  • 2nd Place - Rene Paredes (CGY):

  • 3rd Place - Boris Bede (TOR):

Fan Favourite - Boris Bede (TOR)

Punter of the Year: Cody Grace (CGY)

Calgary Stampeders Punter Cody Grace punting the football

The Australian Punter does it again, becoming the first player to ever win back-to-back Between The Goalposts awards! Cody Grace put on a clinic every single week, racking up a total of 122 punts with an average of 47.3 yards and 36.2 net yards per punt. Grace led the CFL in punts inside the 20-yard line with 36, accounting for 29.5% of all Cody’s punts. He was also tied for first with 11 punts downed inside the 10-yard line. While Grace showed extreme talent in ball placement, the Aussie was also near the top of the list in terms of power, with 47 of his punts travelling over 50 yards, which accounted for almost 40% of all attempts. Congratulations Cody Grace, you are the 2023 Between The Goalposts Punter of the Year!

Runner-ups;

  • 2nd Place - John Haggerty (TOR):

  • 3rd Place - Joseph Zema (MTL):

Fan Favourite - Boris Bede (TOR)

Long Snapper of the Year: Riley Pickett (BC)

BC Lions Long Snapper Riley Pickett setting up for a snap

What an exciting year for Riley Pickett! In his 2022 exit interview, it was suggested that he practice long snapping with the announcement that Tanner Doll would no longer be with the team. In 2023 he was the best Long Snapper in the CFL! Pickett had 67 snaps shown in highlight packages this year, 62 of which were graded as “Strikes,” giving him a strike percentage of 93%, tied for the highest in the CFL. While 2 other Long Snappers also had a 93% strike percentage, the fact that Sean Whyte had an overall completion percentage of 96% and Stefan Flintoft had an average of 47.2 yards per punt shows just how consistent Pickett was in the BC kicking unit. Clean long snaps give punters more time to launch the ball downfield and also result in good holds, which, in turn, result in good kicks. Congratulations Riley Pickett, you are the first-ever recipient of the 2023 Between The Goalposts Long Snapper of the Year award!

Runner-ups;

  • 2nd Place - Louis-Philippe Bourassa (MTL):

  • 3rd Place - Jorgen Hus (SSK):

Fan Favourites - Louis-Philippe Bourassa/Gordon Whyte/Adam Guillemette

Kickoff Specialist of the Year: Boris Bede (TOR)

Toronto Argonauts Kicker Boris Bede kicking a field goal

If you paid any attention to kickoff statistics throughout the year, you already knew Boris Bede would win this award. Bede had a career year kicking off thanks to the electric Argonaut’s offence scoring so often. With 87 tracked kickoffs, Bede averaged a league-leading 71.2 yards per attempt, which is truly mind-boggling. The second-place runner-up, Brett Lauther, was second in average yardage with 65.9 yards per kickoff. I only mention this to highlight the fact that Boris Bede was getting about 5 more yards per kickoff than the next-best specialist. Bede also led the CFL in a new metric I’ve been tracking; the number of kickoffs remaining inside the 30-yard line. For reference, 138/605 kickoffs across the CFL remained inside the 30-yard line, accounting for about 22.8% of all kickoffs. Boris Bede had 36/87 kickoffs remain inside the 30-yard line, which accounted for 41% of his kickoffs. Congratulations Boris Bede, you are the 2023 Between The Goalposts Kickoff Specialist of the Year!

Runner-ups;

  • 2nd Place - Brett Lauther (SSK):

  • 3rd Place - Stefan Flintoft (BC):

Fan Favourite - Boris Bede (TOR)

Kickoff Returner of the Year: Chandler Worthy (MTL)

Montreal Alouettes Returner Chandler Worthy returning a kickoff

One of just 4 returners to crack 1000 yards this year, Chandler Worthy put on a show every time he fielded a kickoff. Over his 47 kickoff returns, Worthy accumulated a total of 1136 yards, averaging about 24.4 yards per return. Chandler’s longest return was 79 yards, which brings me to a new statistic I’ve tracked for Kickoff Returners; returns over 30 yards. Worthy led the CFL in Kickoff Returns over 30 yards with 14 of his 47 attempts, which accounted for roughly 30% of his kickoff returns. Congratulations Chandler Worthy, you are the 2023 Between The Goalposts Kickoff Returner of the Year!

Runner-ups;

  • 2nd Place - Tyreik McAllister (HAM):

  • 3rd Place - Mario Alford (SSK):

Fan Favourite - Mario Alford (SSK)

Punt Returner of the Year: Javon Leake (TOR)

Toronto Argonaut Returner Javon Leake returning a punt

I don’t remember a time in recent history when there were as many exciting punt returners in the CFL as there are now. None are as electric as Toronto’s own Javon Leake. His second year in Toronto was nothing short of prolific and not many people saw it coming. Leake returned 82 punts and was the only player to break the 1000-yard mark with 1216 total yards, averaging roughly 14.8 yards per attempt. Javon Leake also led the CFL in the number of punt returns over 15 yards, with 26 returns, or 31.7%, travelling that distance. While Leake sometimes struggled to keep the ball in his hands, his CFL record-matching 4 punt return touchdowns more than made up for it. Congratulations Javon Leake, you are the 2023 Between The Goalposts Punt Returner of the Year!

Runner-ups;

  • 2nd Place - Tommylee Lewis (CGY):

  • 3rd Place - James Letcher Jr (MTL):

Fan Favourite - Javon Leake (TOR)

Coverage Unit of the Year: BC Lions

BC Lions home field picturing the open roof of the stadium

The BC Lions put together a truly stunning group for their Coverage Unit this year and were rewarded with an average of just 10.1 yards allowed per punt and 19.8 yards allowed per kickoff. Both of these statistics are well below the league-wide average. While they were penalized a whopping 46 times, the reason they are the best is because of how many blocks they have. As a group, the BC Coverage Unit was able to block a league-high 4 punts, which is 2 more blocks than any other team was able to make. Congratulations BC Lions, you are the 2023 Between The Goalposts Coverage Unit of the Year!

Runner-ups;

  • 2nd Place - Edmonton Elks

  • 3rd Place - Montreal Alouettes

Fan Favourite - Toronto Argonauts

As the curtain falls on the 2023 CFL season, Between The Goalposts celebrates the unsung heroes of the game - the remarkable athletes who redefine excellence every week on Special Teams. From precision kicks to electrifying returns, each of our Special Teams Awards winners has left their mark on the league. Congratulations to all the winners, runner-ups, and fan favourites for their outstanding contributions. Your performances have not only enthralled fans but have also elevated the often-overlooked realm of special teams.


A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has tuned in to Between The Goalposts this year. Your unwavering support is incredibly meaningful to me, and I want you to know how much I value each and every one of you. I’m excited to share that there’s a new series of articles in the works, delving deeper into the intricacies of each CFL Special Teams Unit as we gear up for 2024. Keep an eye out for more insights and exciting content! If you would like to show some love to my blog, the original link to the article can be found here;

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My groin hurts just looking at that Cody Grace picture.

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Yea I feel ya lol.

The punter position requires a lot of flexibility

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I guess you’re Special Teams Awards doesn’t include tackles then ? A glaring omission if you ask me . Honestly how can you do such an in-depth report on the subject and not include the players who give it their all on special teams running down field to consistently stop these returns in the first place ?

Allow me to help you out on this omitted award .

Special Team Tackle Award

winner : Carthell Flowers-Lloyd -Hamilton 31 ST tackles and 1 blocked punt .

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You’re correct, I did not include ST tackles. I appreciate your input and would have also picked Carthell Flowers-Lloyd. He was an absolute machine this year.

Here is Pro Stats Canada’s list of Top ST Tackles for your consideration;

Last year, I was only tracking Kickers and Punters. This year I tried my best to include a way to cover a lot more of Special Teams and your reply is correct, not having the ST Tacklers is a glaring omission.

I will do my best to find an efficient and accurate way to track ST Tackles for the 2024 season.

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A great read, thanks for posting this.

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Good job as usual. As the Bombers didn’t win any special teams awards this year and didn’t deserve to, an idea popped into my head.

Perhaps you may consider a discretionary sort of a wild card award in the future for the “kick return of the year”. As you have fans voting this would be a great fit for the fan opinion portion. Needless to say this year that award would have went to Janarion Grant’s return for the ages early in the season.

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Very cool stuff BTG, thanks for doing this…

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I’m curious to know if you noticed any difference in performance for teams that used more than one long snapper in 2023?

Calgary - A.Crawford vs. M.Latour
Winnipeg - M.Benson vs. D.Jackson

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Great inquiry!

Going back through the data I collected this year, and also taking a look at the Stats through Week 21 provided by the CFL, I only see 1 team employing more than 1 long snapper.

That would be the Calgary Stampeders during Weeks 9+10 when Aaron Crawford was out with what I believe was a calf injury (not 100%).

During those 2 weeks, Latour had 5 of his 7 long snaps listed as Strikes. This was a huge dip in production for the Stamps, even if it was just over 2 weeks. Crawford is one of the best long-snappers in the league and was sitting at 94% before his injury.

Of course, it’s important to note that the long snapper data I collected each week is only the long snaps shown in the CFL’s official highlight videos that they post after each game. I simply didn’t have the resources/time to look at every single long snap of the season so these numbers do not show the whole picture.

Other teams who rostered 2 long snappers were;

The aforementioned Winnipeg Blue Bombers with Mike Benson (Starter) and Damien Jackson. I believe Jackson was originally brought in as a camp body during the Bombers specialist competitions this offseason. He is a good enough locker-room presence to be kept around despite not playing much, if at all. It looks like he is listed as a Defensive Lineman/Long Snapper.

The Edmonton Elks also employed 2 long snappers, Peter Adjey (Starter) but drafted Luke Burton-Krahn in the 2023 CFL Draft. Burton-Krahn was kept on the PS/Injured list for the majority of the season.

I think the Bombers might have a long snapper competition this offseason as I wasn’t super impressed with Benson’s work this year.

We’ll have to see how things play out :slight_smile:

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[quote=“BetweenTheGoalposts, post:10, topic:89947”]
… a Defensive Lineman/Long Snapper.The Edmonton Elks also employed 2 long snappers, Peter Adjey (Starter) but drafted Luke Burton-Krahn in the 2023 CFL Draft. Burton-Krahn was kept on the PS/Injured list for the majority of the season.I think the Bombers might have a long snapper competition this offseason as I wasn’t super impressed with Benson’s work this year.We’ll have to see how things play out
[/quote]Thanks for feedback. I agree with your assessment of Mike Benson but I would it extend it back to 2021. His best attribute is that he is on a hometown discount.

Damian Jackson did some long snapping in the 2nd half of Winnipeg’s game 18 (week 21). I have him with 5 long snaps.

Jackson seemed to be a bit of a questionable roster decision for most of the season. He was listed on depth charts as a FB and saw limited action as a FB/TE. He also some action on the DL in short yardage situations, including the goal line stand in the Grey Cup. Mike O’Shea referred to Jackson as a Swiss Army knife.

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lol @BetweenTheGoalposts you must love 3 and outs and rouges.

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Oh you’re right! There he is!

image

I guess the CFL Stat crew missed that too because the stat sheet shows it as Benson snapping the ball;
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Good catch!

I’ll have to readjust the final statistics on the year and go through that week once again. Thanks for pointing that out to me!

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There is nothing better than a Rouge!

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