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Bombers Jefferson, Bryant and Miller all West Division picks for major CFL awards

Three members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will represent the West Division at the Grey Cup as finalists for major CFL awards.

Defensive end Willie Jefferson is the West’s most outstanding defensive player, tackle Stanley Bryant is the most outstanding offensive lineman and fullback Mike Miller was voted in as the most outstanding special teams player.

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo, who only became a starter when current Bombers QB Zach Collaros got injured in the first game of the season, is the West nominee for most outstanding player.

Fajardo led the league in passing with 4,302 yards and led the Riders to a 13-5 record and first place in the West.

He’ll go up against receiver Brandon Banks of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who led the league with 112 catches for 1,550 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also scored two touchdowns and racked up 283 yards on five missed field goal returns.

Jefferson, who led the CFL with 16 pass knockdowns and six forced fumbles and was third with 12 quarterback sacks, will go up against Simoni Lawrence of the Tiger-Cats for most outstanding defensive player honours. Lawrence led the league with 98 defensive tackles but, coincidentally, he was also suspended for two games for hitting Riders’ quarterback Collaros in the head and causing a concussion in Week 1 of the season.

Bryant is looking for his third straight CFL most outstanding offensive lineman award and there’s an excellent chance he’ll get it. He’s the key piece in an offensive line that paved the way for the league’s best rushing attack (147.9 yards per game) and was third in sacks allowed with 35.

He’s up against Chris Van Zeyl of the Ticats, who helped anchor the league’s highest-scoring and most-potent offence.

Miller’s nomination is a tribute to one of the less-heralded jobs in football. He is a career special teamer who only sees the occasional rep on offence but has turned his craft into an art form.

Still, players who are best known for their special teams tackling are rarely recognized in this fashion. Miller was tied for second in the league in special teams tackles with 25, the same number as his rookie teammate Kerfalla Exume and two less than Frank Beltre of the Toronto Argos.

However, it’s not just tackles that make him stand out. Miller is widely known to take double teams and open up lanes for other would-be tacklers like Exume.

Miller will go up against Tiger-Cats kick returner Frankie Williams at the Grey Cup. Williams was near the top of the league in both kickoff and punt returns and scored two touchdowns. He had 10 punt returns of 30 yards or more, which was six more than anyone else in the league (Janarion Grant of the Bombers had four).

The other awards nominees include:

The Bombers (11-7) will play the Stampeders in Calgary in Sunday’s West semifinal and the winner will play the Riders in Regina on Nov. 17.

The Edmonton Eskimos (8-10) will take on the 10-8 Montreal Alouettes in Sunday’s East semifinal and the winner will play 15-3 Hamilton on Nov. 17.