LEXINGTON, Va. – Following excellent performances on the football field this past season, several Keydets were honored by college football analyst Phil Steele as members of the FCS Freshman All-America team and the SoCon All-Conference team.
For the FCS Freshman All-America team, offensive lineman Marshall Gill was named to the Second Team offense while Ethan Caselberry (LB), Brett Howell (LB) and Collin Loftis (DB) were all named to the Third Team defense.
Steele also compiled a Southern Conference All-Conference team in which he named wide receiver Kris Thornton to the Second Team offense, Javeon Lara to the Third Team offense and safety AJ Smith to the Third Team defense. In addition, senior Rohan Martin was named to the First Team special teams unit as a punt returner.
FCS Freshman All-America Team
Marshall Gill, 2nd Team Offense, OL
Ethan Caselberry, 3rd Team Defense, LB
Brett Howell, 3rd Team Defense, LB
Collin Loftis, 3rd Team Defense, DB
Marshall Gill – Second Team Offense, OL
Started all 11 games during the season as a left tackle ... made 12 pancake blocks during the season ... allowed just seven sacks on nearly 600 snaps he played during the season.
Ethan Caselberry – Third Team Defense, LB
Registered 81 tackles for the season, including 43 solo and 38 assisted … had 2.5 tackles for loss totaling nine yards … also had a half sack for a loss of four yards at Toledo in the season opener … had three pass breakups during the season … earned a season-high 10 tackles at Samford on October 13 including six solo stops … had three other games in which he tallied nine tackles (Wofford, The Citadel, Old Dominion).
Brett Howell – Third Team Defense, LB
A linebacker from Fairhope, Alabama, Brett Howell recorded 60 tackles on the year (28 solo, 32 assisted) to rank among the team leaders for the category. He totaled seven tackles for loss on the year and had a sack at Western Carolina that resulted in a five-yard loss for the Catamounts. His best game of the year was against Tusculum on Nov. 3 in which he recorded 16 tackles including nine solo. He followed that with 11 tackles versus Furman a week later and eight against Old Dominion in the season finale.
Collin Loftis – Third Team Defense, DB
Defensive back Collin Loftis from Arlington, Texas, had 39 tackles for the season (26 solo, 13 assisted) in addition to a half tackle for loss against ETSU on Sept. 14. The highlight of the year came against Western Carolina on Sept. 22 in which he recorded two interceptions for 22 return yards. He also had a 54-yard interception return against ETSU on Sept. 14 that was returned to the ETSU one-yard line to set up a VMI score in the second quarter. He also had six pass breakups during the year and blocked a field goal against Tusculum on Nov. 3.
Kris Thornton, 2nd Team Offense, WR
Javeon Lara, 3rd Team Offense, WR
AJ Smith, 3rd Team Defense, DB
Rohan Martin, 1st Team Special Teams (PR)
Kris Thornton – Second Team Offense, WR
The Manassas, Virginia native led the VMI receiving corps with over 1,000 reception yards (1,003) in 2018 and scored four touchdowns as quarterback Reece Udinski’s primary target throughout the year. He earned a career-high 155 receiving yards against Mercer on Sept. 29 by recording 11 catches including a long of 32 yards.
Thornton tied his season high with 11 receptions against The Citadel on October 20 as he tallied 146 yards and two touchdowns against the Bulldogs. During the game he earned his second best reception of the year with a 65-yard catch. He would later break that personal mark with a 67-yard reception against Old Dominion in the season finale. Thornton set a new VMI single season record with 87 catches and was second in the league with 7.9 catches per game and third in receiving yards with 90.7 per game.
Javeon Lara – Third Team Offense, WR
Totaled 53 receptions for 825 receiving yards on the season and seven touchdown catches …. grabbed a season-best 72-yard reception at Samford on October 13 for a touchdown … logged a season-high 10 catches against Mercer on Sept. 29 for a season-best 150 yards … had nine grabs at Western Carolina the week before totaling 143 yards and two touchdowns … also had two TDs against Samford on Oct. 13 and versus Furman on Nov. 10 in the home finale.
AJ Smith – Third Team Defense, DB
Smith, from Virginia Beach, Virginia (Cox H.S.), co-led the 2018 Keydets in total tackles with 90 stops which tied him with teammate Elliott Brewster for ninth in the SoCon in tackles per game (9.1). He led VMI defenders with 55 solo tackles.
A two-year starter in the VMI secondary at safety with 18 career starts, Smith posted 2018 double-digit tackle games against ETSU (11), Western Carolina (10), and The Citadel (10). He also had seven games with nine or more tackles and was credited with three pass breakups, a forced fumble, and a sack during the 2018 season.
Rohan Martin – First Team Special Teams, PR
Martin averaged 15.9 yards per punt return in 2018 as he returned seven punts for 111 yards including a 35-yarder at Chattanooga on October 27 … totaled 412 all-purpose yards during the season … as a receiver had 30 catches for 252 yards and a touchdown … snagged a season-best 34-yard reception against Mercer on September 29, registering a season-best 70 receiving yards on seven catches that day.
For the full Phil Steele article: