HARRISONBURG — Athletes, particularly quarterbacks, can be picky about what number they wear on their backs. Bryan Schor is no exception.
After Schor — a junior college transfer who once committed to Division I-A Miami of Ohio — pledged to James Madison, he made it known he would like to have No. 6, the jersey he has worn his entire football career.
There was just one problem: Sean Tapley, a transfer receiver from North Carolina with one season of eligibility remaining, also wears No. 6.
“I said, you know what, I can wait a year,” Schor joked via cellphone. “He can have it.”
The traffic-jam for numbers, no doubt, is a problem new coach Everett Withers can accept.
Schor joins a growing list of transfers who have joined the I-AA Dukes in Withers’ first seven months on the job. Withers’ football operations assistant, John Streicher, confirmed four more transfers Thursday: Schor, a freshman who participated in spring practice at Lackawanna (Junior) College in Scranton, Pa., Tapley, offensive lineman Nick Appel, also from North Carolina, and Kansas wideout Ishmael Hyman.
Former Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee and Tennessee tailback Alden Hill are already enrolled at JMU.
“I can’t stress how exciting it is to have big-name guys from big-name schools like that,” Schor said Thursday. “It’s definitely exciting.”
On paper, the Dukes, who finished last season a disappointing 6-6, are looking more and more like a Division I-A offense as the transfers roll in. All six of JMU’s incoming transfers play on the offensive side, new toys for co-offensive coordinators Drew Mehringer and Brad Davis.
Streicher said Tapley and Appel will be graduate students at James Madison in the fall after graduating from Carolina this spring, with each having one year of eligibility remaining. Tapley, a 6-1, 185-pound Jacksonville, Fla., native, caught 21 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown last season for the Tar Heels as a junior. Appel, a 6-6, 310-pound tackle from Vienna, appeared in 12 games as a backup last season.
Hyman, from Manalapan, N.J., redshirted during the 2013 season because of a knee injury. The 6-0, 169-pounder was a three-star recruit by Rivals.com (on a 1-5 scale) coming out of high school and will have three years of eligibility remaining.
Madison has not received financial aid agreements from Schor or Hyman, so both are still considered only verbal commitments. All of the I-A transfers will be allowed to play immediately under NCAA rules because they are transferring down to I-AA.
“The new coaching staff has a really positive and energetic outlook on everything,” Schor said. “That’s one thing that’s bringing them in. We’ve kind of got aspirations to go to the D-1 level soon and I think that’ll happen eventually. These [transfers] come in and they don’t have to sit out a year and we may go to a Division-I level soon, so it’s a really good spot for those guys to come in.”
Many had speculated that James Madison would begin the transition to I-A this year, but the university did not announce an invitation from a I-A conference by the NCAA’s annual June 1 deadline and apparently will remain in I-AA at least until next June.
Schor’s route to JMU took many twists and turns. He committed to Miami of Ohio of the Mid-American Conference after the third game of his senior season at Delaware Valley High School in Milford, Pa., and grayshirted the 2013 season at the request of the RedHawks’ coaches (that means he delayed enrollment until the spring semester). But the coaching staff was fired on Dec. 2 and Schor said Miami of Ohio was no longer an option, so he spent his fall as an assistant for his high school team while he stayed in shape. In the spring, Lackawanna coach Mark Duda reached out to Schor, an opportunity the 6-foot-2, 210-pound quarterback took to put together film and contact college coaches.
Being relegated to junior college, though, hurt.
“It took a long time for it to touch down and hit me, almost until practice at Lackawanna,” Schor said. “Like, ‘Ah, man, this is really tough.’ Something I was really focused on was not playing the victim; I didn’t want people to say, ‘Oh, I feel bad for this kid.’”
The right-handed Schor said he sent multiple emails, including ones with his Lackawanna film to Mehringer, and the Dukes expressed interest. The two quarterbacks (Mehringer played at Rice) formed an instant connection, Schor said.
“He’s a football encyclopedia,” Schor said of Mehringer, 26. “Someone with the knowledge he has is ridiculous. I felt really comfortable talking with him up on the board, scheme-wise and doing what they want to do.”
Withers was not available for comment Thursday.
A Class AAAA all-state quarterback his senior season, Schor threw for 6,518 yards and 56 touchdowns during his high school career, including 2,585 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior. Schor said he plans to major in business at JMU. He said he also received a scholarship offer from Colonial Athletic Association rival Towson this spring but decided to pull the trigger on Madison after a visit with his family the weekend of May 24.
“[Lackawanna] was a great place for me and the coach really helped me, but I really wanted to start my four-year school… I was really sick of waiting around, I wanted something to happen,” he said.
NOTE: Streicher confirmed that former Virginia Tech walk-on receiver Michael Brainard has also joined the Dukes. Brainard was a scout team player for the Hokies in 2013.