Aug 8 / Rob

A Very Hot (or Not So Hot) JMU Football Take

JMU Football padded up today for the first time this preseason. That means we’re getting closer to real football, and real football talk. But with only a few practices in the books, we’re still in prime hot take season. Ill informed bloggers, who are excited for the season, but still don’t have much in the way of real news or analysis to report (i.e. us), can still be confident that dumb predictions will be forgotten once the real games start. And if said random predictions actually come true, we can mercilessly remind everyone and pretend like we weren’t throwing early August darts at the wall.

Given the above, I was fully prepared to drop this searing hot take on you. I predict at least four different JMU running backs will have 100 yard rushing games this season. Sizzling, huh? We know JMU has a stable of terrific running backs heading into this season. Last year, the running game struggled at times when young guys were forced to step up and take a lot of reps on the o-line. That experience should pay dividends this year. And with guys like Gerren Butler and Tyree Chavious returning from injuries, the offensive line and rushing attack, might be more consistent in 2018. Still, I admit that saying four different guys would have 100 yard games was nothing more than a wild ass guess. Then I looked at the stats from last year. Maybe it’s not so wild.

JMU had four different running backs eclipse 100 yards rushing in a single game just last year. Before his season ending injury, Cardon Johnson had one of the best games in JMU history with 265 yards against ECU. Trai Sharp cleared the bar two times, going for 130 and 185 against Norfolk State and Delaware respectively. Freshman Percy Agyei Obese made the most of his playing time against Norfolk State, running for 130 yards (and also went for 95 against Rhody). And when things were clicking for Marcus Marshall and the offensive line, they were really clicking. He ran through, around, and past players, dropping 135 yards against Maine, 128 against Weber State, and 203 in the big win over South Dakota State. Did we mention that all four of those guys are coming back? And that Juwon Hamilton, who lead Central Florida in rushing in 2016, will be joining them?  

Perhaps you think this is nothing more than a long-winded way to remind you that JMU is stacked at running back. (ed. note: You’re right.) The Dukes truly have an embarrassment of riches in the offensive backfield. Cardon Johnson is a veteran presence, but he’s not their to just groom the young guys. He can still run. Trai Sharp is an evasive runner who knows how to hit holes. Percy capitalized on his raw talent last season, and should only get better. And we all saw what Marshall could do in the playoffs last year. Add Hamilton to the mix and watch out. That’s 5 guys who will push each other all week at practice. And we haven’t even mentioned Harry O’Kelly yet. It all adds up to a wealth of options for Donnie Kirkpatrick to take advantage of. Donnie and Coach Houston showed that they were willing to ride the hot back last year. We’re guessing they’ll do the same thing this season. And good luck to the defenses who need to try to stop those guys each week.

So maybe the “four different JMU running backs will have 100 yard rushing games this season” hot take isn’t so hot. It’s not a lock, but it’s far from a stretch. If might not come true if one or two guys separate themselves from the pack and get the bulk of the carries. Or maybe the running game will be so balanced that the Dukes have 3 or 4 guys split carries every week and no single back carries the load. But it doesn’t seem to outlandish to predict that the attack could be dominant. So here’s a new prediction. Three different JMU running backs will win CAA Player of the Week honors in 2018. That’s a bit of a hotter take.


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  1. 2004 Duke / Aug 28 2018

    The OL was not very good last year (by JMU standards). If they don’t get better then you could have Barry Sanders and Emmett Smith back there and it wouldn’t matter. Those rushing stats were based on stretching the field in the passing game and popping off a couple big yardage runs each game.

    For example… you could run for 200 yards, but if you popped off a 60 yarder and a 75 yarder…take those out and you only really put up 65 yards. ECU a) sucked and b) completely quit by the 3rd quarter.

    I know the stats look good, but on tape I didn’t see the OL ever really dominate the LOS and move the defense off the ball. That concerns me.

    We had a great season last year, but we’re not gonna beat NDSU unless the OL gets more physical.

  2. Rob / Aug 28 2018

    No argument. Todd and I referred to lots of games last year as “slow blowouts” because JMU kind of let teams hang around, and then had a few dominating drives in the second half to make it a 2 score (or more) game. If you just looked at the stats, it might look like the offense was more dynamic than it really was. It didn’t bother us, because it was a defense first team and wins are wins. No denying that the offense wasn’t as explosive as some recent versions though. It was definitely different than what we were used to.

    I do think the o-line play will be better this year. Some of the struggles last year, were in part due to inexperience. Fornadel and others getting lots of reps last year, can only help this year.

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