FIELD NOTES: Dukes Spread The Ball Around

Greg Madia, Publisher
Dukes of JMU
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Stephen Swofford/DN-R

HARRISONBURG – In the early part of the year, James Madison’s offense is spreading the ball around.

Coach Mike Houston said Tuesday it’s by design that 13 different JMU players have caught passes through the first four games. 10 of those 13 have at least one receiving touchdown too.

“The design of this offense is that you can’t focus on any one receiver,” Houston said. “Because you have so many different guys that can make plays.

“And [quarterback] Bryan Schor is so good at not forcing the ball, that he puts the ball where it needs to go depending on the play call and depending on what he sees.”

Currently, Virginia transfer David Eldridge leads the team with 15 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns, but four others – Riley Stapleton, Ishmael Hyman, Ezrah Archie and John Miller – have at least 10 catches and 100 yards receiving on the season.

Against Maine this past Saturday, seven different players caught passes. And in each of the team’s first four games a different player has led the team in receptions.

“You combine that with our running game, and if forces defenses to defend the entire field horizontally and vertically,” Houston said. “And that’s the challenge.”

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- Sophomore right guard Gerren Butler exited Saturday’s game against Maine with an injury. Houston said Butler is being evaluated today.

- Houston praised Delaware’s defense ahead of this week’s game in Newark, Del. Houston said the 3-4 scheme is not similar to what Delaware coach Danny Rocco and coordinator Chris Cosh did last year when they were at Richmond. Houston said last year with the Spiders, Rocco and Cosh used more of a four-man front, which was similar to what JMU coordinator Bob Trott had installed at Richmond before he came to Harrisonburg.

- Houston said Delaware linebackers Charles Bell and Troy Reeder “are probably two of the better players” in the Colonial Athletic Association.

- Houston said Delaware’s offense looks like it did last year. He said quarterback Joe Walker has improved and he’s helped out by two very good running backs, Thomas Jefferson and Kareem Williams.

- Senior safety Jordan Brown said Delaware uses a little bit different of an offensive system than it did last year, but that the players largely are in similar roles. Brown said what jumps out to him is the size of the Blue Hens’ offensive line.

- Brown, who is tied for second on the team with junior cornerback Curtis Oliver for tackles with 20, said he’s been around the ball more this year because the game plan has dictated it. Brown said most of JMU’s opponents have tried to run the ball, which has forced him to play near the line of scrimmage more often.

- Through four weeks of the season, Oliver said he thinks the defense has played well. He said it’s not surprising either because of how much the unit worked over the last two seasons to grow together. Oliver said instead of surprised, the defensive players are probably just proud of what they’ve accomplished so far and that they know there’s always room to improve.

- Oliver played his high school football at Paramus Catholic High School in Paramus, N.J. He said one of Paramus Catholic’s biggest rivals was Don Bosco Prep, where current JMU freshman offensive lineman Liam Fornadel played. Oliver said he could remember his senior year playing against Fornadel, who was a sophomore.

- Oliver said the private school programs in New Jersey set players up for success in college.

- Fornadel and wide receiver Ezrah Archie both have contributed in their first seasons on campus. Archie is also from New Jersey, having played at Timber Creek Regional High School in Sicklerville.

- Senior left tackle Aaron Stinnie said it's good for the offensive line to get senior guard Nick Edwards back. Edwards was one of four players suspended for the first four games of the season. Stinnie said Edwards “definitely helps with the depth” and “is a really good player.”

- Edwards is getting reps at guard this week in practice and likely will slot into JMU’s rotation of offensive linemen this weekend.

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