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The CFL is flooded with MAC talent

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With the 2015 Canadian Football League season drawing near a close, we here at Hustle Belt examine the 37 former Mid-American Conference football players that call Canada home from May to November.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

It gets cold north of the border. Careers wonder on in the freezing temperatures, hoping that someone south of the 49th parallel gives them a call.

Or that is how many see it.

In reality, that is not the case. The Canadian Football League is not leaps and bounds away from the National Football League in terms of talent. The Canadian game is the original gridiron game, and the CFL is nearly a decade older than the NFL. The field is 110 yards long instead of 100, end zones are 20 yards deep and the field is 65 yards wide while the American football field is just 52.5 yards wide. Canadian football also allows teams only three downs to move the ball ten yards.

The league kicks their extra points from 35 yards out, coaches can challenge nearly anything from whether there was a catch to penalties, and let's not forget that eligible receivers are allowed to move in any direction in the back field before the snap.

All this means is that the CFL is looking for quicker players that can cover more space. Even though the league allows for 12 players on each side of the ball, there remains an 59.28 yards squared more space per player on the field compared to the American game.

This style of play makes the Mid-American Conference a breeding ground for CFL talent, as you'll soon see. Let's take a look at the 37 players former MAC football players who are listed on the roster of one of the nine Canadian teams.

West Division: Five teams, 18 MAC players

British Columbia Lions: 3

British Columbia is in a fight for the playoffs with Winnipeg and Montreal, even though the Alouettes play in the East Divison, due to the Crossover Rule. They have three games left to play, all tough match-ups versus playoff-bound opponents, Hamilton, Toronto and Calgary.

Eric Fraser- DB, Central Michigan-

Fraser is having his best season in his six seasons in the CFL. He has recorded 34 tackles so far, and has one interception, which he returned for his second career touchdown. He has played with three different teams in the CFL, first with Calgary from 2010-2013, Ottawa in 2014, and landed in Vancouver to play for BC before the start of the 2015 season.

Jabar Westerman- DE, Eastern Michigan-

Westernman is also having his best season in the league. He has already managed 24 tackles on the season and has three sacks. He has played in the CFL since 2012, and has spent every season with the Lions. Westerman also has two kick returns on the season for a total of 32 yards.

Campbell Allison- OL, Eastern Michigan-

Allison is a rookie who was taken by BC in the fifth round of this season's CFL Draft. Allison has only seen game action in the preseason so far in 2015, and has spent the majority of the regular season on BC's practice squad.

Calgary Stampeders: 4

Calgary is tied with Edmonton for the league lead at 12-4, but they do not hold the tie breaker due to losing to Edmonton two weeks ago. The winner of each division gets a bye in the first week of the playoffs, so their final two games versus Saskatchewan and British Columbia will be must-see action.

Jabari Arthur- SB, Akron:

Jabari Arthur, a Montreal-native, has been with Calgary throughout his time in the CFL. This season, he has seen action in only two games, and has done most of his work with Calgary's practice squad.

Kamar Jorden- WR, Bowling Green:

Kamar Jordan has been a reserve in the practice squad for most of the 2015 season, but he did see playing time once, making one catch for one yard.

Freddie Bishop III- DL, Western Michigan:

Freddie Bishop III has been a force for the Stampeders in 2015, recording 37 tackles, nine sacks and a forced fumble for the defending Grey Cup champions. Bishop has played with Calgary since 2013, as he was unable to find a roster spot with either the Green Bay Packers or the Detroit Lions.

Derek Dennis- OL, Temple:

Derek Dennis played at Temple when the Owls were a football-only member of the MAC, and was a NFL practice squad journeyman before landing in Calgary. He has been called on to make two starts for the Stampeders in 2015, and was on the practice roster before he started Oct. 2 versus Hamilton.

Edmonton Eskimos: 4

Edmonton currently owns the West Division's first round playoff bye, but Calgary is right on their tail. The Eskimos success ties back to their defense, as quarterbacks Mike Reilly and Matt Nichols have Edmonton sitting at eighth in the league in passing yards and completion percentage (maybe Jordan Lynch gets a chance in the future!!!). Edmonton finishes the regular season with Saskatchewan and Montreal.

Jordan Lynch- QB, Northern Illinois:

Therrrrrrrrrrrrre's Jordan! After a failed outing with the Chicago Bears during the 2014 NFL Preseason, Jordan Lynch has found a home north of the border in Edmonton. Lynch has seen limited action in his first season with the Esks, but already has five total touchdowns. Throwing the ball, he's 3-for-4 for 75 yards and a touchdown on the season, while rushing he has 38 carries for 148 yards and four touchdowns. Lynch has served as Edmonton's short yardage quarterback, often coming in on third down or near the goal line to earn a had fought yard or two (CFL teams often go for third-and-short because the defensive line must be a full yard away from the ball before the snap, while in American football, the line must be a football-length a part.

Almondo Sewell- DT, Akron:

Almondo Sewell has done well as a Eskimo, but his numbers have tapered off slightly in 2015. Last season, the former Zip recorded 49 tackles and nine sacks, but he managed only 25 tackles and two sacks in 16 games this season.

Greg Wojt- OL, Central Michigan:

Greg Wojt made only one CFL appearance this season, but due to a concussion he remains out of Edmonton's lineup into the forseeable future. In previous seasons with the club, he has been a top performer on the Esks' front line.  He played with Edmonton from 2008-2012, Hamilton for two seasons in 2013 and 2014, and back to the Eskimos this season.

Kenny Stafford- SB, Toledo:

Kenny Stafford has been a large piece of Edmonton's 2015 success, going for 677 yards on 44 catches so far, which is good for third-best on the roster. Stafford had previously played for Montreal and Calgary, but already has more than double the 267 yards he racked up with both those teams. He also had stints with Miami and Atlanta in the NFL.

Saskatchewan Roughriders: 3

It's been a rough season for Saskatchewan, who started the season 0-7, and have failed to rally back into the playoff race. They do have an outside shot at the playoffs, but would need to win out, while British Columbia, Winnipeg and Montreal all must lose out. They finish with Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal.

Naaman Roosevelt- WR, Buffalo:

Naaman Roosevelt ranks sixth in team receiving yards with 307 for the struggling Roughriders. He has also caught three touchdowns, and recorded one tackle. This is first year in the CFL, but he has been a pro since 2010, when he bounced around the rosters of the Bills, Browns and Lions.

Corey Watman- OL, Eastern Michigan:

Corey Watman was Saskatchewan's first round pick back in 2014, and the EMU grad has been on the road to success north of the border. He has take on a bigger role for the Riders this season as the team are looking for him to be a long-term piece.

Chad Spann- RB, Northern Illinois:

Chad Spann has not seen game action so far, as the Northern Illinois grad has been forced to play on the practice squad, and likely wont see action in the Roughriders' final three contests.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: 4

Winnipeg has been in free fall since losing quarterback Drew Willy early in the season at Hamilton. Since then, four different quarterbacks have started for the Bombers, and due to a comeback win over British Columbia two weeks ago, they are right in the hunt for the West's last playoff spot. They finish off the season with Ottawa and Toronto.

Drew Willy- QB, Buffalo:

Drew Willy looked to be Winnipeg's long-term solution at quarterback, but instead he injured his knee versus Hamilton early in the season and Winnipeg only has two wins since. Before the injury, willy had completed over 68 percent of his passes, which was good for second-best in the CFL.

Paris Cotton- RB, Central Michigan:

Paris Cotton is currently Winnipeg's second leading rusher, going for 268 yards on 56 carries and one touchdown in 2015. Last season he racked up 361 yards on 66 carries for three touchdowns. Cotton left CMU in 2011 due to graduation.

Nick Moore- SB, Toledo:

Nick Moore leads all Bombers receivers in receiving yards, racking up 774 yards and three touchdowns on 66 catches at the slotback position so far in 2015. If Winnipeg is to make the playoffs this year, he'll play a huge part in why they did. He formerly played with British Columbia.

Julian Posey- DB, Ohio:

This is Julian Posey's second year in the CFL, both of which he has seen  from the practice squad. Last season he played on Hamilton's practice unit and before then he had short outings with the Browns, Dolphins, Vikings and Jets of the NFL.


East Division: Four teams, 19 MAC players

Hamilton Tiger-Cats: 7

Hamilton is at the top of the East, even though they are missing their starting quarterback. The Tiger-Cats are unbelievably good at their new home, Tim Hortons Field, located a few blocks south of downtown. They finish off 2015 with British Columbia, followed by a home-and-home with Ottawa.

Jalil Carter- DB, Akron:

Jalil Carter is now on his fourth season in the CFL, but his production at Toronto fell after he was signed by Hamilton. He had 48 tackles in each of the last two seasons, but this year he has only recorded two with the Tiger-Cats.

Johnny Sears Jr.- DB, Eastern Michigan:

Johnny Sears Jr was very productive in his five seasons with Winnipeg, but due to injury he has only recorded 11 tackles in 2015. But he did record his first ever touchdown earlier in the season on a pick-six, one of two interceptions on the season.

Jarret Chapman- DB, Central Michigan:

Jarret Chapman, a rookie that Hamilton selected in this season's Supplemental Draft, has not seen any in-game action for Hamilton this season. The CMU grad has been stuck on the Tiger-Cats practice roster, and that looks like where he will stay for the remainder of the 2015 season.

Jake Olsen- OL, Central Michigan:

Jake Olsen has been a key part of Hamilton's offensive line since arriving on the team this season, but is currently on the six-game injury list. He was on Hamilton's practice squad last season, and is a native of Hartford, Wisconsin.

Dan Molls- LB, Toledo:

Dan Mulls has bee stuck on Hamilton's practice roster throughout his first season in the CFL. Last season, Mulls was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers throughout training camp, and was signed by Hamilton once he was released.

Courtney Stephen- DB, Northern Illinois:

Courtney Stephen has been a Ticats' player since the 2013 season, and starred at defensive back throughout his time north of the border. He has 37 tackles, three picks and two fumble recoveries on the season. For more on the NIU grad, you can check out his LinkedIn page.

Hasan Hazime- DT, Akron:

Hasan Hazime makes the list despite transferring to Wake Forest late in his college career. The Pickering, Ontario native currently has nine tackles and one sack on the season. He has spent three years with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Rico Murray- DB, Kent State:

Rico Murray is currently on the one-game injury list for the Tiger-Cats, but he has come up with 28 tackles and one pick so far on the season. Last season he had 63 tackles, five interceptions, one touchdown and two fumble recoveries. In 2013, he racked up 53 tackles, two picks and two interceptions.

Toronto Argonauts: 3

Toronto has had a fairly successful season, and are now in a battle with Ottawa for a home game in the first round of the playoffs. They finish off the season with Montreal, British Columbia and Winnipeg, and have also clinched a playoff birth.

Natey Adjei- WR, Buffalo:

Natey Adjei was Toronto's first round pick in 2013, but has failed to provide much production for the Argos in the two years since. This season he has just five catches for 53 yards and a touchdown.

Vincent Agnew- DB, Central Michigan:

Despite currently being a member of the Toronto practice roster, Agnew has seen game action in 2015. So far, the Central Michigan grad has 21 tackles on the season. Last year he had 31 tackles and one fumble recovery for the Argonauts.

Phil Bates- WR, Ohio:

Phil Bates was a NFL practice squad journeyman before arriving on the practice squad of the Toronto Argonauts. He spent time with the Seahawks, Browns and Cowboys in the NFL and has not seen game action at any point with Toronto, but the Omaha, Nebraska native did play one game for the Seattle Seahawks in 2014.

Ottawa REDBLACKS: 5

Ottawa clinched their first playoff birth as new franchise with a win at home versus Winnipeg last week. Quarterback Henry Burris has nearly 5,000 yards of passing as Ottawa chases both Toronto and Hamilton for playoff seeding. They finish off the season with a trip to Winnipeg and a home-and-home with Hamilton.

Shawn Lemon- DL, Akron:

Shawn Lemon landed in Ottawa this season, and spent time with three different CFL teams in the past. This season for Ottawa, he has recorded nine tackles and two sacks. His career year so far was in 2014 for Calgary, where he had 31 tackles, 13 sacks and an interception.

Ernest Jackson- WR, Buffalo:

Ernest Jackson has had a monster season for Ottawa so far, coming up with 71 catches for 868 yards and five touchdowns. Before coming to Ottawa at the beginning of the season, he spent three seasons playing in Vancouver for the British Columbia Lions.

Kalonji Kashama- DL, Eastern Michigan:

Kalonji Kashama is in first season in the CFL, and has seen limited action with the Ottawa REDBLACKS. So far, Kashama has not started a game, but recorded four tackles and came up with a fumble recovery. He was taken 27th overall in the 2013 CFL Draft.

Jermaine Robinson- DB, Toledo:

Jermaine Robinson is currently on the six-game injury list for the Ottawa REDBLACKS and has not seen game action in 2015. Last season he recorded 21 tackles for a 2-16 Ottawa club.

Keith Shologan- DL, Central Florida:

Keith Shologan makes the list because he played his college ball in the MAC when Central Florida still called the conference home. He is now in his eighth season in the CFL, spending the first six seasons of his career with Saskatchewan. He has a career-high five sacks and two fumble recoveries to go along with 20 tackles on the 2015 season.

Montreal Alouettes: 4

Montreal has been disappointing in 2015, but they still have a chance to make the playoffs via the crossover rule if they can keep everything together. They will conclude the 2015 season by playing Toronto, Edmonton and Saskatchewan.

Eric Deslauriers- WR, Eastern Michigan:

Eric Deslauriers is playing his eighth season in Montreal at wide-out, and despite being on the six-game injury reserve list, he has still managed 155 receiving yards on 19 catches for the season. He has a career total of 99 catches, 1,334 yards and three touchdowns.

Dan LeFevour- QB, Central Michigan:

Dan LeFevour is currently injured, but in 2013 and 2014 the Central Michigan grad saw extensive playing time for Hamilton. In 2013, he went 40-for-62 for 394 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Last season, he was 101-for-149 for 1,276 yards, four touchdowns and four picks for the East division champion Tiger-Cats.

Carl Volny- RB, Central Michigan:

Carl Volny is in his fifth CFL season, but his first in Montreal, and hasn't see much playing time at Montreal due to being stuck on the six-game injury list. This season he has just one catch for -3 yards and has not carried the ball for Montreal. His best season was 2012 in Winnipeg when he carried the ball 25 times for 84 yards as a Blue Bomber. He has 168 career yards in the league on 41 carries.

Chip Cox- LB, Ohio:

Chip Cox is a CFL veteran. He is currently in his tenth season in the Canadian Football League, all of which he has played with the Montreal Alouettes. So far in 2015, he has 69 tackles, one sack and two interceptions. He best year came in in 2013 when Cox led Montreal with 114 tackles, 12 sacks, four interceptions and one fumble recovery, which he returned to the house. In his CFL career, he has 743 tackles, 25 sacks, 22 interceptions, two pick-sixes, eight fumble recoveries for 381 return yards and six fumbles returned for touchdowns, including once bringing a fumble back 108 yards to the house.


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Here is a full breakdown of number of CFL players from each Mid-American Conference school:

1. Central Michigan 8
2. Eastern Michigan 6
3. Akron 5
T-4. Toledo 4
T-4. Buffalo 4
6. Ohio 3
7. Northern Illinois 2
T-8. Kent State 1
T-8. Bowling Green 1
T-8. Western Michigan 1
T-8. Temple* 1
T-8. Central Florida* 1
13. Miami 0
14. Ball State 0
15. UMass* 0
16. Marshall* 0

*= Team that spent a limited time in the MAC, but has a player in the CFL who played at the school when it was in the conference.

If you want to see these former MAC stars play north of the border, almost every CFL game is broadcast in the United States on ESPN3, with the Grey Cup being played live on ESPN or ESPN2. Canadians can catch CFL action on TSN (English) or one of the RDS (French) networks.