JMU Football vs. Maine

James Madison coach Curt Cignetti waits with his team to enter the field before the start of a game against Maine in September.

As James Madison transitions to the Sun Belt, the caliber of high school recruits may go up in the next batch of players.

In the past, JMU lost recruits just because of the FCS label on the program. Now that the Dukes are moving up into the FBS, they may be able to secure those players that are on the edge of whether or not to commit.

“I think we’re positioned to be able to attract great recruits and that’s why this brand has become as strong as it is and I think this brand will be strong in the Sun Belt,” JMU head coach Curt Cignetti said Monday in his office.

Cignetti noted that the move to the FBS has had a positive reaction from potential recruits. The Dukes have already seen the impact of moving into the Sun Belt when they secured Colorado State quarterback Todd Centeio, a former starter in the Mountain West, from the transfer portal last month.

Though the portal has yielded top-level talent, Cignetti said the move will show more when recruiting high school athletes in the class of 2023. He added that he and the coaching staff will begin to hit the road this month to begin recruiting.

The first place Cignetti is starting? Virginia.

“I think we’re very blessed to have a state where there’s a lot of talent,” Cignetti said.

He emphasized the importance of recruiting “our backyard” as a priority, as well as Maryland and the other border states — West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Cignetti’s had a focus on Virginia in the transfer portal, securing the commitment from Coastal Carolina offensive lineman Isaac Osusu-Appiah, a Manassas native.

The move to the FBS didn’t really impact the incoming freshman class because most of the recruits were already committed before the Sun Belt announcement, according to Cignetti.

“We’ve always attracted good student-athletes here, a high-quality student-athlete and we’ll continue to and maybe we’ll just continue to attract more of the highest quality that we’ve been able to attract,” Cignetti said.

Just because the Dukes are moving up in competition doesn’t mean Cignetti and company are changing the type of players they’re looking for. They’re keeping the values and characteristics the same.

“You’re looking for the same characteristics, position-specific characteristics and profile in terms of character, work habits, toughness, motivation, commitment,” Cignetti said. “You just might get a few more Mike Greene’s than you did in the past.”

Contact Noah Fleischman at 574-6296 or nfleischman@dnronline.com | Follow Noah on Twitter: @fleischman_noah

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