Picture courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Bennett Conlin
It’s nearly right here. After greater than a 12 months with out JMU soccer, we’ll see the Dukes on the sector … * cross your fingers and knock on wooden * on Saturday after they host Morehead State.
Curt Cignetti embarks on season 2 as the top coach of JMU. He’ll achieve this after main the crew to the FCS title sport in 2019-20. Whereas the crew finally got here up quick in opposition to the state of North Dakota, it was an incredible begin to the Cignetti period.
JMU’s spring 2021 season options many intriguing tales. The Dukes drew a brand new beginning QB this weekend, and Cole Johnson is anticipated to lastly be QB1. The veteran sign caller will lean on an elite offensive line and a operating sport as he goals to steer the Dukes to a CAA title amid a pandemic.
Ah sure, the pandemic. Maybe an important story of this fall. Will the Dukes play all eight video games scheduled? Will the FCS playoffs happen given the state of the pandemic?
COVID-19 seems to play a crucial function within the spring season, with many groups opting to not play this spring. Towson’s departure modified the way in which all the CAA labored this spring, and the Dukes will face three CAA groups twice over their uncommon convention schedule.
It is a unusual season, however mid-February remains to be a season. If the FBS season confirmed us something, it is that after the video games begin, followers, coaches, gamers, and members of the media nonetheless care quite a bit about outcomes on the sector.
The schedule (tentative)
Let’s begin with the fundamentals. JMU is scheduled to play eight video games this spring, with six CAA video games and non-conference matchups. The playoff area shrinks to 16 groups this spring, making CAA’s automated spot much more useful.
JMU opens the season Saturday in opposition to Morehead State. The Dukes host Robert Morris the next weekend. Each non-conference matchups had been set to be explosive, because the Dukes are the far superior crew in each contest.
Whereas the disparity is smaller for all six CAA video games, there may be nonetheless a big hole between Elon, Richmond, W&M and JMU. The Dukes needs to be the favorites in all six convention video games, creating an incredible alternative to go Eight-Zero.
This 12 months’s schedule is weak. Sadly, there may be not a lot that JMU can do about this. The crew wants non-conference video games and has scheduled a few non-conference squads that it has confronted in current seasons. The CAA schedule was dictated by the league, with a deal with geographic proximity.
JMU avoids groups in CAA’s “North” Division this spring. That makes for a simple schedule, as opponents like Villanova, Albany and Delaware will play within the reverse division. JMU’s schedule makes him an enormous CAA favourite, though enjoying with the identical crew twice will create some sport plan challenges.
The primary concern with the JMU schedule is its basic weak spot.
If JMU loses two video games, would the Dukes be locked out of the postseason? I’m not offered.
Given the weak spot of the crew’s schedule, the Dukes will depend on wins and elegance factors this spring in terms of postseason seeding.
What ought to followers know in regards to the Dukes?
In case you are a JMU soccer fan and shocked by the fast arrival of the spring soccer season, you aren’t alone. Monitoring the soccer information throughout an offseason with out sports activities is far simpler than monitoring the soccer information in the course of the school basketball season.
For these of you who have not been paying a lot consideration to the information, we are going to take a look at some highlights.
Cole Johnson’s time
After years of ready his flip to be JMU’s beginning quarterback, the “Child Giraffe” would be the Dukes’ starter.
Johnson is an athletic quarterback with a powerful arm. He isn’t precisely Ben DiNucci, Bryan Schor, or Vad Lee, however he isn’t a statue both. It might probably transfer round and is a risk to rack up yards in scramble or in studying choices sport. His energy, nonetheless, is his arm.
Expertise can also be an asset for Johnson. Whereas he is by no means been the undisputed starter for the crew, he is been across the block. Johnson has appeared in 22 profession video games, capturing 134 passes. He has accomplished 86 of these for 1,099 yards and 6 touchdowns. He additionally has six interceptions.
Johnson has been on the present since 2016 and has performed in video games. He is somebody who is aware of what it takes to be a university soccer participant, even when he is solely began one sport in his profession.
Gage Moloney, a left-handed quarterback and highly effective operating again, will again Johnson.
Transfers nonetheless assist
JMU has adopted transfers in current seasons. From Brandon Polk to Ben DiNucci to Ron’Dell Carter, transfers performed an enormous function in current JMU title races. Look forward to the transfers to contribute yet another time.
Scott Bracey, a switch from Duke, is anticipated to be within the combine as a large receiver. He is on the offense’s two-depth checklist as a starter.
Kris Thornton, one other potential WR incumbent, is a VMI switch. Jawon Hamilton is a transferring operating again from UCF who has been an incredible addition to the Dukes, and Stanley Hubbard is a transferring from UConn alongside the offensive line. Noah Turner, a switch from UNC, can contribute together with Drew Painter and Clayton Cheatham.
Defensively, transfers can play an enormous function.
The secondary will rely a bit on FBS transfers. Wayne Davis has been a key contributor to JMU prior to now, and the Ohio State switch is scheduled to start in security. He can be joined within the defensive backfield by the switch of UNC Greg Ross.
On the line of defense, Mason Chowela is a beast of a person. The UCF switch ought to win performs at defensive sort out. On the edge, Temple’s transfer to Antonio Colclough is a promising prospect. Minnesota’s Abi Nwabuoku-Okonji switch is an alternative choice as a defensive finish.
Bridgewater Switch Connor Madden is the crew’s kickoff specialist.
JMU recruited many stars and initially they bought engaged to the Dukes. Transfers, nonetheless, will play an vital function in JMU’s success once more this season.
Excessive expectations as a result of operating sport
JMU’s customary is to compete for nationwide championships. That is still the aim and the usual this season. The Dukes return to a proficient roster, albeit with a number of questions, however the crew possesses quite a lot of ability and expertise.
The primary cause the Dukes are thought-about a risk to the title this season, along with a tradition of profitable, is the crew’s operating sport. Latrele Palmer averaged practically seven yards per carry as a freshman, and is listed because the fourth operating again on the depth chart.
Percy Agyei-Overweight returns after scoring 19 speeding touchdowns in 2019-20. It eclipsed 1,200 meters on the bottom. Jawon Hamilton is elusive as they arrive and thinks he’ll type a 1-2 hit with Agyei-Overweight. Search for Solomon Vanhorse concerned within the passing sport.
The offensive line additionally brings again important expertise, with Liam Fornadel main the way in which. He is likely one of the crew’s greatest NFL Draft prospects. 4 of the crew’s 5 beginning offensive linemen are red-jersey seniors.
Count on many Dukes races this season.
What ought to followers count on?
I anticipated a disjointed spring.
The groups have already withdrawn from the season. Would others do the identical in the event that they began the 12 months with a dropping document after which confronted important COVID-19 points inside their groups? Nearly certain.
It is going to be a busy season, largely as a result of virus. When JMU can take the sector, it’s in opposition to comparatively weak competitors. The Dukes play eight video games in opposition to simply 5 groups.
It is an uncommon season, but it surely seems to be like it is going to occur.
Followers ought to look ahead to FCS soccer. After the autumn, it’s a nice end result, even whether it is disjointed. We hope the Dukes can play rather well and provides us one thing enjoyable to get pleasure from through the spring. We’re extra hopeful that the Dukes can play safely, whereas giving gamers and coaches one thing to get pleasure from in what has been a difficult and irritating 12 months.