As we discussed here the absence of former starting linebacker Stephon Robertson due to graduation, the linebacker core for James Madison is a big question mark this season. As it turns out, it may become a bigger issue for their first game against Maryland on Saturday. According to Matt Jones, the James Madison beat writer for the Daily News-Record, head coach Everett Withers said they’re still unsure whether Steele will play and will decide later today.
Asked Everett Withers about Gage Steele's status: "Haven't decided yet. I'll probably make a decision sometime tomorrow."
— Matt Jones (@MattJones36) August 27, 2014
For James Madison to lose Steele would be big. Steele is the “next Robertson” for this defense, and it would be a huge break for Maryland. Their leading returning tackler, Steele amassed 106 tackles, 35 tackles behind Robertson. The next leading tackler for James Madison is redshirt safety Dean Marlowe, who recorded 77 tackles last season. The next leading tackler from a returning linebacker is redshirt freshman Jake Marten, who recorded just six tackles in two appearances last season. That speaks volume to their returning linebackers for this team.
Steele is a vital part of their defense, so with him playing, he would still be somewhat injured. Maryland will certainly use that to their advantage, especially in the running game. Running back Brandon Ross will be expected to have an even bigger game now in order for the Mike Locksley offense to run as planned.
This is definitely a situation that both the Maryland staff and fans will want to monitor heading into Saturday’s opener. Steele’s injury will certainly open up Maryland’s offense even more. Did I mention that Stefon Diggs and Deon Long will be back?