CFL Pass

Bombers getting huge contributions from special teams demons Miller and Exume

MONTREAL — It’s saying something when a guy who was special teams demon as a player and later a special teams co-ordinator in the CFL is witnessing something new.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that really before,” Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea was saying this week.

What he’s never seen before is two members of the same special teams unit tied for the CFL lead in tackles.

It’s happening right now, with Bombers teammates Mike Miller and Kerfalla Exume tied atop the list with 18 special teams takedowns apiece.

“They’ve both been very consistent,” said O’Shea, who is eighth on the all-time special teams tackles list with 169.

“They’ve both had a big game during the season too. Mikey Miller is that way and he’s been that way since he was a rookie. To see another guy come up like that is pretty neat.”

While Miller is a 30-year-old fullback in his ninth CFL season, Exume is a raw rookie defensive back, who was drafted in the eighth round just this past May.

Miller recently passed O’Shea on the all-time list and now sits third with 178 special teams tackles, six back of Bombers president and CEO Wade Miller (no relation). He needs 12 more tackles to tie the all-time record, held by former B.C. Lion Jason Aragki.

“I won’t compare Kerf to Mike right now, that’s really not fair, O’Shea said. “Mike’s gonna move on to become the best special teams tackler in history at some point.

“But (Exume) certainly has the great desire that you need to play special teams.”

Miller tied a CFL record with seven special teams tackles in one game earlier this season, while Exume had five in his CFL debut back in June in Vancouver.

They have been having somewhat of a friendly competition all season, along with all the other players on cover teams. There’s a system in place within the special teams unit in which players are rewarded for certain things and can check their standing on a whiteboard in the meeting room.

“We’ve got a lot of good special teams players on this team and it just happens that we’ve been able to make 18 apiece,” Miller said. “It means we’re just two guys that are trying to contribute to the team. A lot of times it’s just effort and want. It’s a dogfight. A lot of times it’s just a one-on-one fight where you’ve got to beat a guy and get down there and try to make the tackle.”

Exume has been a huge surprise this season, going from a longshot to make the team to such a key contributor. He said a lot of it has to do with playing alongside Miller.

“We all look up to a guy like Mike Miller,” Exume said. “Obviously, it’s big being able to have the same amount of tackles as him.

“I tell him if he doesn’t get a tackle, I’m going to get it, so that’s the competition we have and it’s fun. I look at him, how he runs, how he works and everything. So I try to look up to him and take everything he does in a good way.”

Bombers special teams co-ordinator Paul Boudreau said both players just seem to have a knack. From his perspective, what they are doing is pretty special.

“The other day, during the bye week, I just happened to scroll through some of the stats,” Boudreau said. “I didn’t realize they were both sitting there at 18. That’s pretty impressive.

“Eighteen for one guy on a unit is good. Two guys, that’s pretty impressive.”

The two will look to add to their totals Saturday when the 9-3 Bombers take on the 6-5 Alouettes in Montreal.

The Bombers have won so many games because of strong play on offence, defence and special teams and their kick coverage is among the best in the league. They are first in opposition punt return average (8.3) and fourth in opposition kickoff return average (21.5). That area has been much stronger since the first week of the season when they allowed a 110-yard kickoff return touchdown to B.C.’s Brandon Rutley.

Miller and Exume continue to lead that charge, even though they are now regularly double-teamed.

“Mikey has an innate ability, especially on kickoff, to weave his way through all the crap that’s going on and come out clean on the other end,” Boudreau said.

“Kerf made a play this last game, which everybody in the room, when they watched it, was pretty excited for,” added O’Shea. “They kind of wondered how the heck he made that play. He split a double, torqued his body around and made a tackle in the open field, which you just don’t see guys make.”

It’s all in a day’s work, Miller said.

“A lot of guys just take pride in the fact that we’re doing it for our teammates and the team,” he said. “Field position and momentum are such huge parts of the game and special teams — that’s the epitome of it because we don’t want to put our team in bad position. We take big pride because we know the guys in the locker room respect it.”

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

THE TACKLE TWINS

A week by week look at the special teams tackles by Mike Miller and Kerfalla Exume

Week    Opp     Miller  Exume

1            B.C.      0          5

3           Edm    1          1

4           Ott       7          0

5           Tor      2          1

6           Ott       2          2

7           Ham    0          3

8           Tor      1          1

9           Cgy      0          1

10          B.C.      2          0

11          Edm    1          1

12          Sask    1          2

13          Sask    1          1

Total                 18       18

Source: torontosun.com




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