Dukes’ Steele makes impact

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

HARRISONBURG –After red-shirting last season, James Madison University linebacker and Warren County graduate Gage Steele worked his way into the starting lineup in the preseason. Five games into his career, Steele is making the JMU coaching staff look very good for making the move.

The freshman has 62 tackles for the season, and last weekend against Albany had a career game. He recorded 18 tackles, including 13 solo and was named the Colonial Athletic Association Freshman of the Week.

“I just try to go out there and do whatever I can for my team, get the tackles the best I can, and whatever happens, happens,” Steele said of his performance.

Steele was originally going to be the backup for JMU middle linebacker Stephon Robertson, but Steele impressed the coaching staff so much they moved him to a starting outside linebacker position.

JMU coach Mickey Matthews said he’s been very pleased with how well Steele has performed.

“He’s a good player,” Matthews said. “He’s much like Stephon, of course he’s not as good as Stephon, but he’s certainly playing very well in all areas. He’s becoming a better pass defender. He’s just really becoming a better football player. He makes a lot of plays.”

Steele said he’s just excited to be on the field this season for the Dukes.

“It’s been awesome,” Steele said. “It’s been a great experience playing with the team, from watching them last year to coming out and being able to work with them. And it’s real nice just to be out on the field.”

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS: JMU redshirt sophomore and Handley graduate Graham Sharples saw his first official game action in Saturday’s 40-13 win over Albany.

The kicker went 2-for-2 on extra-point attempts. JMU starting kicker Cameron Starke was bothered by a groin injury, according to Matthews. Starke missed an extra point for the second straight week, and missed a 44-yard field goal in the third quarter.

“Cameron said his groin was hurting and he said it was hurting pregame,” Matthews said. “And that’s the second game — we may have to make a change, we’ll have to see. He’s not kicking very well. Graham [Sharples] has always pushed him in, and I’ll have to see where we are.”

Starke has been a very reliable kicker for the Dukes in his career. He is currently tied for second in JMU history with Scott Norwood and David Rabil with 32 made field goals.

Matthews said Starke had the same injury in JMU’s 35-33 loss to Akron earlier this season.

“It must be chronic, where it’s a situation that’s really bothering him,” Matthews said. “We’ll just have to wait and see. We’ll have to look at it the next day or two.”

MOVING ON UP: JMU redshirt senior Dae’Quan Scott reached a couple milestones in the Dukes’ win on Saturday.

Scott broke the career scoring record on his first touchdown of the game. He now has 240 points, which surpassed the previous mark held by Rabil. Scott also reached 3,000 yards rushing for his career.

With his 87 yards against the Great Danes, Scott now has 3,023 yards, which is third all-time in school history.

“It feels good to have that under my belt, but it doesn’t really mean anything,” Scott said of his scoring record.

Matthews said Scott’s competitive nature helps to score even more touchdowns.

“The number one characteristic that Dae’Quan brings to the table is he’s competitive,” Matthews said. “When you’re competitive, you’re going to be a good red-zone runner. His strength is probably underestimated. He breaks a lot of tackles. I think he’s better out in space than he is between the tackles, but he’s still a good tackle-to-tackle runner.”

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd