#1 James Madison FCS Football 2017 Preview


James Madison Dukes


Overall Rank: #1

#1 CAA

Way back on September 17th, James Madison lost to North Carolina. The Dukes would not lose again. They cruised through the tough CAA with a perfect 8-0 record and went into the playoffs as the #4 seed. James Madison crushed New Hampshire in their playoff opener, a team that gave them a tight game earlier in the season. The Dukes then hosted Sam Houston State and beat the Bearkats 65-7. That gave James Madison some big momentum heading into the semifinals. And they needed it in order to beat North Dakota State on the road 27-17. In the national championship game, Youngstown State was Dukes final victim of the season. James Madison was the team that was finally able to unseat North Dakota State and they will look to do it again in 2017.
2016 Record: 14-1, 8-0
2016 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Mike Houston (14-1 at James Madison, 57-20 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Donnie Kirkpatrick
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Trott
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Cardon Johnson, RB, 704 yards
Passing: Brian Schor, QB, 3,002 yards
Receiving: Terrence Alls, WR, 575 yards
Tackles: Brandon Hereford, LB, 96
Sacks: Simeyon Robinson DL, 4.0
Interceptions: Raven Greene, S, 6
Other Key Returnees: RB Trai Sharp, TE Jonathan Kloosterman, OL Aaron Stinnie, OL Tyree Chavious, OL A.J. Bolden, S Jordan Brown, CB Curtis Oliver, CB Jimmy Moreland, DL Andrew Ankrah
Key Losses: RB Khalid Abdullah, WR Brandon Ravenel, WR Domo Taylor, WR Rashard Davis, LB Gage Steele, CB Taylor Reynolds, P Gunnar Kane
Quarterback Bryan Schor threw for 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns during his junior campaign. More impressively, he completed 73.1 percent of his passes and threw just six interceptions. Schor does not have to make big plays for the Dukes to be successful, but he is certainly capable. More importantly, Schor makes the smart play and the right play. The loss of Brandon Ravenel, Domo Taylor and Rashard Davis does leave some questions at wide receiver. Terrence Alls, who caught 39 passes for 575 yards and five touchdowns, is the most experienced returning option. Having a check down pass catching tight end like Jonathan Kloosterman will help. James Madison will want to stick with the ground game, but losing Khalid Abdullah is a big of a concern. He rushed for 1,809 yards and 22 touchdowns while leading the Dukes to the FCS championship. Cardon Johnson is ready for a larger role after rushing for 710 yards and eight touchdowns on just 114 carries in nine games. While Johnson was injured, Trai Sharp stepped up and became Abdullah’s main backup and rushed for 617 yards and five scores on the season, including a 144 yard effort against Sam Houston State in the quarterfinals. Behind a great offensive line led by Aaron Stinnie, Tyree Chavious and A.J. Bolden, both Johnson and Sharp, not to mention Schor, will have big years running the ball.
James Madison did not have the best defense last season. They did rank tenth in the CAA in pass defense. So there is plenty of room for improvement and this unit should be better. It will start up front where Simeyon Robinson and Andrew Ankrah should provide a boost to the pass rush. Losing leading tackler Gage Steele hurts when it comes to leadership, but others are ready to step up, most notably Brandon Hereford, who was second to Steele in tackles with 96. The secondary has a big time playmaker in Raven Greene. He intercepted six passes as a junior and will battle for All-American accolades during his senior season. With Jordan Brown, Curtis Oliver and Jimmy Moreland also back, James Madison should see their pass defense improve dramatically, especially if the pass rush improves.
The Bottom Line:
FCS fans have become accustomed to repeat champions, but it is a long road before James Madison can start to think about repeating. The CAA is tough and James Madison will have a difficult time going 8-0 again in conference play. However, their toughest competition appears to be Villanova, Richmond and New Hampshire and all three of those teams come to Harrisonburg.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 275.0 (5th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 232.5 (42, 2)
Total Offense: 507.5 (3, 1)
Scoring Offense: 46.7 (2, 1)
Rushing Defense: 130.0 (28, 3)
Pass Defense: 214.3 (57, 10)
Total Defense: 344.3 (30, 5)
Scoring Defense: 21.1 (17, 4)
Turnover Margin: 1.13 (8, 2)
Sacks: 1.60 (88, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 1.33 (30, 6)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#15      Marcus Hawkins
#45      Gage Moloney
#80      Joe Hunt
#98      Liam Fornadel
#156    Kyndel Dean  
#216    Isaac Ukwu
#232    Garrett Groulx
#238    Clayton Cheatham