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ASU LB Merlin Robertson named Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

After being talked up for most of the season by his teammates and coaches for his play on the field, Arizona State linebacker Merlin Robertson now has the accolade to back it up.

The linebacker was named the Pac-12’s Defensive Freshman of the Year on Tuesday, joining Junior Onyeali (2010) and Vontaze Burfict (2009) to take home the honor.

It might not come as much of a surprise to ASU fans.

In 11 starts as a Sun Devil, Robertson made 77 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks, all team highs.

“I think I’ve preached and preached and preached about how good he’s going to be from the very beginning and you have the opportunity too be a good coach when you have good players and he is the epitome of that,” Defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales said Wednesday.

“The special thing about Merlin is that from Day 1 he wanted to know what everybody does and I think that’s an impressive thing for a 17-year-old kid. He knows where the puzzle pieces fit.”

And according to Gonzales, they’ve just begun to scratch the surface.

“He’s really good and plays really hard but he knows from my standpoint, I think he’s lazy and he’s got a long way to go and so when he gets through that, he can be really special,” Gonzales said. “There’s a chance that if he plays like he did this year the next two years, he’ll be like N’Keal [Harry]. We’ll be celebrating him going on to the next level, but that’s a long way away.”

He was seventh among Pac-12 linebackers with just eight missed tackles and played more snaps than any true freshman in the Pac-12 with 749.

He was a driving force in helping ASU secure one of its best wins of the season against then-No. 15 Michigan State, recording nine tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. For his efforts, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week.

He’s the third ASU player to win the award on either side of the field, joining former quarterback Andrew Walter (11/7/04) and former wide receiver Jaelen Strong (10/514).

Robertson is the latest Sun Devil to be honored for his play.

Harry and running back Eno Benjamin made the All-Pac-12 First Team, while center Cohl Cabral also made the second All-Pac-12 team. Harry was also named as a second-team return specialist.

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