JMU roundup: Robertson tabbed CAA’s preseason defensive player of the year
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BALTIMORE — James Madison senior linebacker Stephon Robertson was named the Colonial Athletic Association Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and was one of three Dukes named to the preseason squad, announced Wednesday at the CAA Football Media Day at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Joining Robertson on the squad was junior safety Dean Marlowe and senior kicker Cameron Starke. James Madison was selected to finish fifth in the preseason poll, as chosen by the league’s coaches and sports information directors.
The Dukes were picked fifth overall in the preseason poll, despite having the second-most first-place votes with four. Villanova was picked to take home the league title, garnering 11 first-place votes, followed by Towson (three votes), New Hampshire (three votes), Richmond (one vote) and JMU. Delaware was picked sixth, followed by CAA newcomer Stony Brook, Maine and William & Mary. The other CAA newcomers, Albany and Rhode Island, round out the poll.
The 2012 CAA Defensive Player of the Year, Robertson was previously selected as a Walter Camp All-American and a Second Team Associated Press and Sports Network All-American, as well as earning First Team All-CAA honors. A starter in all 11 games last year and 34 played in his career, Robertson was a force for Madison’s defense, which ranked second in the CAA and 24th in FCS football in scoring, first in the league and 19th nationally in rushing defense and fifth in the CAA in pass defense. Also a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award as the nation’s top defensive player, Robertson finished with a team-high 101 tackles, including 48 solos, 8.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble and five pass breakups, which earned him First Team All-CAA honors for the second straight year after being named CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2010.
Also a finalist for the Dudley Award as the state’s top Division I player, he was third in the league and tied for 43rd in the nation with 9.18 tackles per game. He led JMU in tackles in seven of the 11 games played this year and recorded double-digit tackles in six games, five of them CAA contests.
In his career, Robertson has started in 34 of a possible 35 games. He has amassed 304 career tackles, an average of 8.94 tackles per game. He has also been named a 2013 Preseason All-American by Phil Steel’s College Football Preview and The Sports Network and is also on the initial watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award after finishing second among underclassmen and eighth overall in last year’s balloting despite appearing on just the final watch list.
A two-time All-CAA selection, including a first-team honor last season, Marlowe was the only sophomore and one of four non-seniors on the league’s first team last year. A preseason All-America pick by The Sports Network, the safety had a career season-high 82 tackles on the year, including 44 solos, five for loss, seven passes defended, team-high tying three interceptions, one forced fumble and one safety. One of the leaders on a JMU defense that was second in the CAA in scoring, first in rushing and fifth in pass defense, Marlowe ranked second on the team, third among CAA defensive backs and ninth in the CAA overall at 7.45 tackles per game and 7.63 in league contests. He was tied for eighth in the league with three interceptions and recorded a season-high 12 tackles in the home win over William & Mary, one of two games with 10 or more tackles on the year.
A second team All-CAA pick last year, Starke was a solid kicker for the Dukes, hitting all 37 of his point after attempts and going 10-for-14 (71.4 percent) on the year in field goal attempts, including connecting on all seven from inside 40 yards. He ranked second on the team in scoring with 67 points, including a career-long 49-yarder as part of a 13-10 win over then-defending CAA champion Towson. For his career, he is 25-of-33 (.758) on field goals and 71-of-72 (.987) on extra points, including two game-winning field goals on final plays in 2011. His 15 field goals in 2011 tied a school record for a single season as he is a career 25-for-33 (75.8 percent) on field goals.
JMU will open the 2013 season at home on Aug. 30, hosting Central Connecticut State at 6 p.m.