HARRISONBURG — When James Madison begins its campaign next week at West Virginia this is who will play pivotal roles for the Dukes.
Below is a projected depth chart for JMU’s opener after two-plus weeks of August training camp.
QB: Ben DiNucci, Cole Johnson
This past Tuesday, JMU coach Curt Cignetti said Ben DiNucci won the quarterback competition over Cole Johnson. DiNucci, the incumbent and favorite who threw for 2,275 yards and had 25 total touchdowns last year, was decisive and consistent in his decision making to beat out Johnson. In each of the past three years, Johnson has served as the team’s primary backup.
RB: Percy Agyei-Obese, Jawon Hamilton, Austin Douglas or Solomon Vanhorse
The reason there are four players listed here is because Cignetti has said repeatedly he feels those four are capable of seeing game action. Percy Agyei-Obese is the clear No. 1 back and should get the majority of touches. Throughout August, JMU defensive players said he gave them the most problems of any offensive player on the team. Jawon Hamilton, a former starter at Central Florida, should compliment Agyei-Obese. Then either Austin Douglas, the best of the three true freshman rushers the Dukes have on their roster, or Solomon Vanhorse, the redshirt freshman who capitalized on a strong spring with a solid August, are both viable options should JMU want to give the opponent a different look.
WR: Kyndel Dean, Daniel Adu
Kyndel Dean begins the year as JMU’s No. 1 wide receiver with Riley Stapleton sidelined due to suspension. Dean emerged last season when he secured 47 catches for 617 yards and five touchdowns. He said another season paired with DiNucci should lead to expanded production. Daniel Adu quietly put together a strong camp and even worked with the first-team offense at times.
SLOT: Jake Brown, Devin Ravenel or Josh Sims
One player continuing to improve is slot receiver Jake Brown. The former walk-on who nearly attended a Division III school out of high school, Brown, became a reliable target midway through the 2018 season and hasn’t relinquished his role yet. He’ll play most often in the slot and, if he must come off the field, Devin Ravenel has taken second-team reps at practice and Josh Sims started six times last year before Brown took the job away.
WR: Brandon Polk, Adu
Penn State transfer Brandon Polk has adapted nicely to his new surroundings at JMU. Cignetti said Polk could play inside or outside, but he’s taken reps mostly on the outside during practice. Polk, a fifth-year senior, possesses quick speed and has the experience to help the Dukes in what will be his only season with the program. It’s likely Adu is the first receiver off the bench at either wide receiver spots.
TE: Dylan Stapleton, Clayton Cheatham, Drew Painter, Nick Carlton
The Dukes will use multiple tight ends, and since they’re four-deep at the position, they can. Dylan Stapleton is the clear-cut starter. He started eight games last year in his first at JMU after transferring from Division II Slippery Rock and has only gained confidence with a full season of FCS experience under his belt. Clayton Cheatham has started in the past and so has Nick Carlton while Drew Painter has adapted nicely since moving from defensive tackle to tight end this past spring.
LT: Zaire Bethea or Raymond Gillespie
This is one spot on the field where if either Zaire Bethea or Raymond Gillespie starts, it wouldn’t be surprising. Both Bethea and Gillespie were starters last season, but ended up both taking reps at left tackle leading up to the start of this season. Either way, both are probably going to play.
LG: Truvell Wilson, Nick Kidwell
Cignetti acknowledged over the past few weeks that Wilson is JMU’s starter at left guard. That’s one of the better stories to come out of training camp considering Wilson, a former Division II standout at University of Virginia College at Wise, left that program after just one season to walk-on at JMU and bet on himself to take advantage of the opportunity. He sat out 2017 due to transfer rules, played in a reserve role last year and is now a probable starter. Nick Kidwell, a redshirt freshman, had an outstanding spring, good training camp and is likely to be the first guard off the bench.
C: Mac Patrick, J.T. Timming
Mac Patrick has played in 36 games and started 28 of them throughout his career. He’s probably not going to come off the field much again this season.
RG: Jahee Jackson, Kidwell
The 2017 All-Colonial Athletic Association selection, Jahee Jackson, was a starter last year until his suspension. But he’s back into a No. 1 role again helping JMU create a formidable right side of the offensive line.
RT: Liam Fornadel, Joe Fishpaw
Liam Fornadel might be JMU’s best offensive player coming off of his 2018 All-CAA season. Fornadel has been plugged into that right tackle job since last season and he won’t leave it unless the Dukes need him to play another spot on the offensive front.
DE: Ron’Dell Carter, Jalen Green, Antonio Colclough
It’s going to be tough for defensive coaches to ever pull Ron’Dell Carter off the field because of how well he defends against the pass and the run. Though at times throughout his career, and even in training camp over the last month, Carter has been moved inside during obvious passing situations in order to get another edge rusher on the field. Temple transfer Antonio Colclough has earned more reps since Isaac Ukwu suffered a season-ending injury and Cignetti said true freshman Jalen Green won’t redshirt this year.
DT: Mike Greene, Garrett Groulx
Mike Greene started all 13 games at defensive tackle last year for the Dukes and will keep that role this season. Throughout the summer, coaches and teammates raved about the effort Greene made to better his strength and conditioning. Garrett Groulx, who fought injury earlier in his career, used the spring and summer to show how he can help the team.
DT: Adeeb Atariwa, Tony Thurston
JMU is fortunate to have its entire starting defensive line back for 2019 and that group includes Adeeb Atariwa, who makes it extremely difficult for opposing offensive lines to have success against. Tony Thurston, a redshirt freshman, will be the backup.
DE: John Daka, Bryce Maginley
While John Daka is settled into his second year as a starter, he’s also helped Bryce Maginley adjust to defensive end. On his fourth position in four years at JMU, Maginley will be a backup at defensive end and early in the season could see action in long down-and-distance situations when JMU wants to rush the passer. Daka had 10 sacks last year.
LB: Landan Word, Kelvin Azanama or Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey
Earlier this week, Landan Word said he is excited for the chance to reach his full potential this season. In his first year at JMU he dealt with adjustment after leaving Virginia, and then last year he missed the first half of the season due to a collarbone injury. Word looks sharp and prepared to do everything a middle linebacker needs to do. Both Kelvin Azanama and Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey have earned reps with the second-team defense.
LB: Dimitri Holloway, Mike Cobbs
Mike Cobbs has taken reps with the first-team defense while Dimitri Holloway has missed time in practice due to a hand injury. Cobbs is prepared to play as much as the Dukes need him to early in the season, but as long as Holloway is healthy, he’ll start and get the majority of snaps after racking up 127 total tackles last year.
SPUR: Wayne Davis, Sam Kidd
Not many players have the versatility that Wayne Davis does. He can play against the run, rush the passer or drop in coverage depending on what JMU asks of him. He said he enjoys his position on the field and is prepared for a full year in the role after learning what it takes to last through a whole season as a starter for the first time last year.
S: Adam Smith, Que Reid or Chris Chukwuneke
An All-CAA choice in 2018, Adam Smith, said he has high expectations to play well and help JMU win a national championship this year. His backups are two young players, Que Reid and Chris Chukwuneke, veterans have spoken highly of throughout training camp.
S: D’Angelo Amos, MJ Hampton
The punt-return star, D’Angelo Amos, proved he’s also a good safety, too, with the 64 tackles and two fumble recoveries he had last season. Amos, like Smith, is unlikely to come off the field, but MJ Hampton will back him up.
CB: Rashad Robinson, Willie Drew
After missing all of last year with turf toe, Rashad Robinson, is healthy and anxious to get back in a game. The last time he played in a game was on Jan. 6, 2018, when JMU lost the 2017 national championship to North Dakota State. Throughout August, he looked like the same player that was named an All-American two years ago. Willie Drew had an interception return for a touchdown in one of the preseason scrimmages, and has a promising future according to Cignetti.
CB: Wesley McCormick, Charles Tutt
It’s likely Wesley McCormick gets the nod over Charles Tutt to start next week against the Mountaineers, but odds are both McCormick and Tutt see significant action. McCormick, a junior, made three starts last year while Tutt, a fifth-year senior, made four starts in 2018, but has battled injuries throughout his career.