Jul 18 / Rob

The One JMU Football Player I Am Most Excited About

I can’t wait for JMU football season. We’re talking full on counting the days, watching old Youtube highlights, and pouring over stats excited. But there is one particular player who I am most excited about. To be clear, there are lots of players I’m looking forward to seeing suit up on on Saturdays this Fall. The offensive line is young, but experienced. And I am pretty stoked to see Liam Fornadel after he earned valuable reps as a true freshmen last year. I’m tempted to say he’s the guy because it would probably make me seem more knowledgeable and like a real football guy. It’s not him though.

Likewise, I could choose any of the talented guys in the trenches on either sides of the ball, like Tyree Chavious on offense, or Darrious Carter or Ron’Dell Carter on the defense. And goodness, even football fans who don’t root for Dukes must be anxious to watch the Dukes’ loaded secondary. Jimmy Effin Moreland, Rashad Robinson, and OSU transfer Wayne Davis? Yes, please. The running back position is similarly stacked, with so many studs that I can’t possibly single one out. It’s an embarrassment of riches for JMU fans, with talent all over the field. But there’s one player who has me more excited than any other. That player is Riley Stapleton.

Last season was Stapleton’s coming out party. As a redshirt sophomore, the wide receiver elevated his game and helped fill the void left by the departure of guys like Brandon Ravanel and Domo Taylor. Buzz started building for Stapleton in the preseason, with reports of him catching everything in site. After the rushing game was the story in JMU’s season opening victory at ECU, Stapleton announced his presence to the world with a 8 catch and 2 TD performance the following weekend against East Tennessee State. That was just a glimpse of things to come.

Stapleton had a solid regular season, but come playoff times he really stepped up and showed JMU fans what a game changer he could be. He was the deep threat against Stony Brook averaging over 20 yards a catch on a day when 8 Dukes caught passes. The next game against Weber State was his wow moment though. In that classic game, Stapleton went off to the tune of 8 catches for 189 yards and one very, very big TD. For those who forgot, the TD was a 40 yard catch with 2:08 to go that pulled JMU to within 2 points, before Trai Sharp tied it on the conversion. It was one of the biggest catches in JMU football history. He followed it up with a 2 TD performance the following week in the 51-16 blowout over South Dakota State. Finally, while the championship game against North Dakota State will be a game many JMU fans remember for some key dropped passes, Stapleton was terrific (ed. note: that was NOT a fumble). Uncoverable is the only word to describe him that day. He torched an outstanding NDSU defense for 107 yards on 7 catches.

Stapleton’s numbers last year were great. He showed flashes during the season, but demonstrated some All America type play in the postseason. He ran good routes and consistently used his body to outmuscle and out-position smaller defenders. And the guy makes all the tough catches. With the confidence of his playoff performance, the sky is the limit for him. And there might not be a more perfect partner for him than fellow receiver David Eldridge. He had a great first season with JMU after transferring from UVA. He racked up 42 catches for over 533 yards. He’s the consummate “move the chains” receiver, always picking up the yards needed to convert and keep drives going. He’ll keep the safety’s honest which will open things up for Stapleton to go over the top. And Stapleton stretching the field, will give Eldridge space to work. It’s a match made in heaven.

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  1. M@ / Jul 19 2018

    Yeah, I’m a little excited also. And I am thrilled with Stapleton and hoping his brother has a great impact next year (he has to sit out a season because he’s transferring “up”). That being said, I worry about the QB situation hurting the passing game. Even if we end up with a stud at QB, he (whomever “he” ends up being) will be splitting snaps with the first team until a decision is made…so he won’t get as much time working with the WRs as maybe he could.

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