LAFAYETTE — Departing seniors Jamal Robinson and Dominique Tovell headlined a group of eight Louisiana-Lafayette players recognized on the All-Sun Belt Conference team.
Robinson and Tovell each were named to the league’s first team. Defensive back Savion Brown made the second team; tackle Octravian Anderson, running back Elijah McGuire, linebacker Otha Peters and defensive lineman Chris Prater were honorable mentions; and Steven Coutts was named a top newcomer.
Robinson started off slowly as he worked his way back into form from a pair of injuries that cut his 2014 season short, but he was explosive as ever by the end of the season.
He turned in two of his best games of his career in back-to-back weeks, when he hauled in 10 passes for 188 yards and a score against South Alabama, only to follow it with a 12-catch, 183-yard performance the next week against New Mexico State.
He couldn’t quite keep it up though, as nagging injuries sapped his production the final few weeks. His foot was in a walking boot for most of the week leading up to the finale against Troy, but Robinson still gutted out two quarters.
“Jamal had a strong second half of the season, started coming into his own a little bit and getting more confident,” coach Mark Hudspeth said. “Give him credit, man. The other night he went until his body couldn’t go no more.”
Despite his slow start (12 catches, 178 yards in his first four games) and injuries that caused him to miss half of the Arkansas State and Troy games, Robinson finished the season with the fourth-most receiving yards in the SBC.
Tovell had always been one of the Cajuns steadiest defenders, but in his final season he provided a playmaking spark for a defense that sorely needed it.
He shattered his previous career highs in sacks (seven) and tackles for loss (14½) while playing multiple positions for the Cajuns defense.
Tovell also finished with a career high in tackles (79), making him the only Sun Belt player to finish the season ranked in the top 15 in tackles (14th) as well as top five in sacks (third) and tackles for loss (fourth).
“He’s been the heart and soul of this defense for four years,” Hudspeth said. “Just a steady guy. Never missed a practice, never missed a game. Just a true Ragin’ Cajun through and through.”
Brown worked his way into the starting lineup in the Cajuns’ SBC opener and was one of the few mainstays on defense after.
He finished the season with six passes broken up and three interceptions, one of which he returned 85 yards for a touchdown.
McGuire was last season’s Student-Athlete of the Year and was the preseason selection to win the award again. But nagging injuries and a patchwork offensive line kept him from reaching peak levels.
Still, McGuire still finished the season with more than 1,000 rushing yards, and he tied for the SBC lead with 16 total touchdowns.
For the first time since 2012, the Cajuns were shut out in the superlative awards.
Student Athlete of the Year, otherwise known as Player of the Year, went to Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who guided the Panthers to their first bowl berth with 4,160 passing yards and 26 passing touchdowns. Arbuckle is a near lock to break the SBC’s single-season passing record in the bowl game, needing just 95 yards.
Arbuckle’s coach, Trent Miles, was also recognized with the league’s Coach of the Year honors.
New Mexico State running back Larry Rose III was named the Offensive Player of the Year after he ran for 1,651 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Appalachian State’s Ronald Blair was named the Defensive Player of the Year after recording 7½ sacks and a SBC-best 18 tackles for loss.
Georgia State receiver Penny Hart was the obvious candidate for Newcomer of the Year after he led the league in both receptions (71) and receiving yards (1,095) while tacking on eight touchdown catches.