May 17, 2024

Costabile: One player to watch on every West Division team

Matt Smith/

It’s been so great seeing CFL players across the country back on the field as preparation for the 2024 season is well underway.

There are so many storylines to follow and questions to answer once the campaign kicks off on June 6 in Winnipeg.

Before the opening game of the year, I’m taking a look at one player from every team that you should keep an eye on in 2024.

I started with the East Division and now I’m heading to the other side of the country with the West Division.

» Costabile: One player to watch on every East Division team
 Ferguson: 9 training camp battles to watch
» West Division training camp questions
» East Division training camp questions
» Get Your Seat: Buy 2024 tickets here
» 111th Grey Cup Premium Experiences packages available now


How much better can he be?

That’s the question I keep asking myself after Brady Oliveira had one of the best seasons I’ve seen a running back have, hitting career-highs in rushing yards (1,534), yards from scrimmage (2,016) and total touchdowns (12 – nine rushing and four receiving). He also became the 15th player in league history to reach 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a single season, and the second Canadian to ever hit that mark, on his way to being named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian and earning the West Division’s nomination as the league’s Most Outstanding Player.

So, I ask again, how much better can he be?

I’m excited to find out the answer to that question and watch how Oliveira builds on the jaw-dropping season he had last year when things kick off in early June.


Demerio Houston signed with the Calgary Stampeders as a free agent this off-season after three seasons in Winnipeg (Thomas Skrlj/

Demerio Houston, who is arguably the Stampeders biggest off-season acquisition, should be on your radar in his first year in the red and white.

The 27-year-old snatched a league-leading seven picks last year and I’m sure defensive coordinator Brent Monson is thrilled to have him in the building to help increase the Stampeders’ interception count after finishing 2023 mid-pack with 17. The cornerback led the CFL in defensive takeaways as well (10; seven interceptions and three fumble recoveries) and his 50 total tackles were third on his team, just behind Adam Bighill (74) and Evan Holm (64), in 15 regular season games.

After Houston picked off Jake Maier twice last season, once in Week 5 and for the second time in Week 11 where he took it to the house for a pick-six, I’m sure the Stampeders quarterback is thrilled the pair are on the same side now.

I’m anticipating Houston making a ton of noise and showing off his see-ball, get-ball mentality in Cow Town this season.


Speaking off big off-season acquisitions, the Edmonton Elks had one of their own in Javon Leake.

The Elks had not scored a kick return touchdown since 2015 until that streak was broken last year thanks to a Deontez Alexander kickoff return that he ran into the end zone. With Leake in the building, Edmonton is making sure they don’t have to wait that long for another kick return major ever again.

Leake was sensational in 2023, earning the league’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player award last November. He led the CFL with 1,216 punt return yards, 15.0 yards per punt, and total kick return touchdowns (four). Not only is Leake always dangerous to score when the ball is in his hands, he’s shifty and quick enough on returns to get his team in great field position (Toronto was first in the category in 2023) with the help of some great blocking, of course.

I’m certain we’ll see at least a few return touchdowns in Edmonton this season with Leake in the building.



I could have picked few BC Lions receivers to mention here, since the Lions boast a pretty good receiving corps (understatement) but I’m going to single out Alexander Hollins.

In just his first full CFL season (he only played in four games in his rookie year in 2022), Hollins hauled in 78 passes for 1,173 yards, good for fourth in the CFL. The 27-year-old also scored nine receiving touchdowns, second only to Dalton Schoen (10). Hollins was good for a big play, too, averaging 15 yards per catch, the perfect match for his quarterback aptly nicknamed Big Play VA.

With a whole season in the Lions offence with Vernon Adams Jr. at the helm, and more targets thrown his way with Keon Hatcher possibly missing some time as he recovers from an Achilles injury suffered in the Western Final last year, Hollins will be an exciting one to keep an eye on in the West.


After a devastating injury sidelined Trevor Harris for most of the 2023 campaign, the veteran quarterback is healthy and ready to hit the ground running this season.

There’s plenty of optimism and change in the air in Saskatchewan, with the addition of a new head coach in Corey Mace leading the way. Running AJ Ouellette and offensive lineman Jermarcus Hardrick have also dominated the headlines, adding two pieces to the team’s offence that has excited those on the staff, on the roster, and in the stands.

Captain obvious here but having solid, consistent quarterback play is the backbone to a successful offence and I’m looking forward to seeing how Harris bounces back from his injury and leads the Riders this season. In the five games he played last year, Harris threw for 1,274 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. What will he do this year?

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