January 5, 2024

New Year, New Me: Projecting 2024 breakout Canadians

Brett Holmes/CFL.ca

Each December as I reflect back on the previous season one thought is constantly wandering around my head: Who is next? 

In the ever competitive game of pro football, teams are constantly struggling to balance roster allocations, salary caps, and players demanding more opportunity.

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Many of these stressors will result in players breaking free to new teams in search of a different or more involved role while others will stay put in their current situation and wait their turn.

There are many paths to becoming a breakthrough player in the CFL and development is rarely a straight line to the top, but here is one Canadian player per position on offence and defence who I believe could be primed to take the next step and level up their game in 2024.

Tre Ford
QB | Edmonton Elks

We’ve all seen the creativity, imagination and athleticism of Tre Ford on full display at various memorable moments over the past two seasons. During a tough era for Edmonton football, Ford remains one true shining light, but I believe 2024 is the year he moves from fun to functional, refines his game further as a passer, and shows he can stay healthy for most of the season without losing his trademark style.

Johnny Augustine
RB | Winnipeg Blue Bombers

I fully expect Brady Oliveira to stay put in CFL free agency this winter, but will his backup do the same? Augustine is getting up there in years played relative to the average Canadian back and has shown a great yards per carry ability while using his unique athletic background to carve out a role for himself few anticipated in his draft year.

Does he stay put and get another handful of carries as a backup, or go elsewhere in search of the spotlight to prove he can breakthrough and build something more?

David Dallaire
FB | Montreal Alouettes

David Dallaire was extremely impressive last spring at the CFL Combine presented by New Era and was rewarded with an early round pick by the Montreal Alouettes. James Tuck is a tremendous resource to help his development and Regis Cibasu has seen it all, but I have a feeling based on the Alouettes play calling this year Dallaire could be much more involved this coming season.

Jalen Philpot
REC | Calgary Stampeders

Brother Tyson got all the spotlight in a magical moment for the Alouettes, but now it’s Jalen’s time to shine for a Calgary club in need of a dominant Canadian pass-catcher. After missing the entire 2023 season due to injury, Jalen should be fully rested and ready to fight his way back to the forefront of CFL discussions around elite young Canadians as Calgary tries to reclaim the Western throne.

Gregor MacKellar
OL | Toronto Argonauts

I’m not sure exactly where he’ll slot in with so much talent, depth, and continuity, but Gregor MacKellar feels like a Canadian lineman ready to take on a larger role in the Argos’ attack. He’s the perfect physical run blocking style to aid his opportunities, the double blue will be hard pressed to keep him for much longer if he doesn’t start soon as other teams will be interested in offering him the larger role and salary that comes with it.

Lake Korte-Moore
DL | Saskatchewan Roughriders

I know the headlines these days are all about wrestling for Lake, but his game, motor, and mentality scream elite CFL defender and I think this is the season that starts to show through more than perhaps previously expected in Saskatchewan. Corey Mace will have a hard time keeping Korte-Moore off the field if he keeps making plays to start 2024.

Ryder Varga
LB | BC Lions

This could have been Ben Hladik, whose game I absolutely love, but every time I talk to people around the Lions they always bring up Varga’s name. It’s those little hints in my experience that tend to lead towards breakthrough seasons. Depending on what the Lions do down the middle this winter, the opportunity could be there and with it a stake claiming campaign.

Tunde Adeleke
DB | Hamilton Tiger-Cats

I don’t think this will be in Hamilton, and I know he’s already broken out in a successful CFL career, but the Adeleke comeback tour in 2024 is one of my favourite storylines especially if he signs in Ottawa this February. An East Division with Canadians Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Royce Metchie, Stavros Katsantonis and Tunde Adeleke all calling free safety home? Yes, please.

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