Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - They say good things come to those who
For Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford, James Madison linebacker
Stephon Robertson, and defensive ends Caleb Schreibeis of Montana State and
Brandon Thurmond of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, it's been constant leadership and a
willingness to improve which have made their teams better.
Their ability to develop individually, while impacting teammates, has led to
Alford, Robertson, Schreibeis and Thurmond joining the Buck Buchanan Award
Watch List on Wednesday in the race for the 18th annual award which honors the
outstanding defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
This season's winner will join a list of Buchanan Award greats such as Dexter
Coakley, Jared Allen, Rashean Mathis, Kroy Biermann and the 2011 recipient,
New Hampshire linebacker Matt Evans, who is a nominee again trying to win for
the second season in a row.
Alford, a 6-foot, 185-pound senior, might be one of the FCS' best lock-down
cornerbacks. In 2011, as an All-Southland Conference second-team selection, he
finished second and fourth in the conference with five interceptions and seven
pass breakups, respectively.
This season, teams have learned not to throw to his side of the field. Alford
has totaled 37 tackles, five tackles for loss, four interceptions and seven
pass breakups. In Southeastern Louisiana's Week 4 victory over then-No. 17
McNeese State, Alford collected seven tackles, two pass breakups and one
critical interception with 2:33 left to seal the 25-24 win. The senior also
handles punt return duty for the Lions and has seven returns for 99 yards and
Robertson, a 5-11, 225-pound junior, is on track to earn a degree in justice
studies, but his play on the field also deserves some justice. In his first
year as a starter, as a redshirt freshman, he earned 2010 CAA Defensive Rookie
of the Year honors. He's improved more as a junior, garnering All-America
third-team and All-CAA first-team honors in the preseason. The defined leader
of the Dukes' defense has recorded a team-high 92 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss
and five pass breakups in 10 games this season.
Even more impressive has been Robertson's durability. He has started all 33
games in his career and totaled an impressive 295 tackles during that span. As
a result, JMU's defense has gradually turned into one of the top units in
the CAA. In 10 games this season, the Dukes rank first in scoring (19 points
per game), third in rushing (135 yards per game) and second in total defense
(320 yards per game).
Schreibeis, a 6-3, 252-pound senior, stepped up nicely for an injury-laden
Montana State defense earlier this season. As a team captain, he has emerged
into the leader on the Bobcats' talented defensive line. In nine games, he
ranks fifth on his team in tackles with 35 and is first in tackles for loss
(13), sacks (11), quarterback hurries (seven) and forced fumbles (seven).
Schreibeis leads the FCS in forced fumbles and has contributed to MSU leading
the Big Sky Conference in rush defense (89 yards per game), total defense (305
yards per game) and opponent third down conversion (26.8 percent). In every
game he has played this season, the senior has had at least a half sack or
Thurmond, a 6-2, 260-pound senior, has flipped the switch in his final season
at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, turning into one of the FCS' most productive and
dangerous pass rushers. Just one year ago, he had 25 tackles, seven tackles
for loss, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble and five quarterback hurries. In 10
games this season, he's improved in every category, with 56 tackles, 22
tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, and seven quarterback hurries. He also has three
forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick.
Thanks to the impact of Thurmond, and an improved UAPB defense, the Golden
Lions rank first in the SWAC in allowing 16 points per game and second in
total defense with 290 yards per contest. UAPB has clinched a berth in the
SWAC Championship Game next month.
Other nominees on the Watch List are nose tackle Brent Russell of Georgia
Southern; defensive ends Joseph LeBeau of Jackson State and Colton Underwood
of Illinois State; linebackers Evans, Wes Dothard of Chattanooga, Jeremy
Kimbrough of Appalachian State, Robert McCabe of Georgetown, Blake Peiffer of
Southeast Missouri State, Tyler Starr of South Dakota and Jordan Tripp of
Montana; cornerbacks Demetrius McCray of Appalachian State, B.W. Webb of
William & Mary and Marcus Williams of 2011 FCS champion North Dakota State;
and safeties Jaquiski Tartt of Samford, Cooper Taylor of Richmond and Darnell
Taylor of Sam Houston State.
Bios of all 20 players can be found on the FCS Awards page at
The Buchanan Award will be voted on by a national panel of sports information
and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries
following the regular season.
The Sports Network also presents the Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Eddie
Robinson awards. The Payton Award honors the outstanding player in the FCS,
the Rice Award goes to the FCS freshman of the year and the Robinson Award
honors the FCS coach of the year.
All four awards will be presented on Dec. 17 at the FCS Awards Banquet and
Presentation in Philadelphia.
The Sports Network