HARRISONBURG – James Madison practiced Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday this week and is now seven sessions into the spring.
- Nearly halfway through its spring, JMU coach Mike Houston said the thing that he’s liked most about his team is that they’ve competed really hard during individual drills, 7-on-7 and team periods each day it hits the field.
- This week, JMU cornerback Rashad Robinson returned to practice. The soon-to-be junior started 11 games this past season before he got hurt, which forced him to miss the Dukes’ run through the postseason and the first few spring practices. Houston said, “He’s probably not fully recovered, but his strength is there and he’s stable.”
- Outside linebacker Bryce Maginley is having a solid spring, both Houston and outside linebackers coach John Bowers said. As a freshman, Maginley thrived on all the different special teams (punt, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return) units in 2016 and his play was highlighted by the 20-yard scoop-and-score off a blocked punt in the FCS quarterfinals against Sam Houston State.
- Maginley has earned more first- and second-team reps at outside linebacker with Kyre Hawkins moving to inside linebacker. Maginley said he’s enjoyed taking on more responsibility and has adjusted well to it. A native of Charlotte, N.C., Maginley added he believes his strong play on special teams as a freshman has given him good leverage heading into 2017.
- At inside linebacker, position coach Byron Thweatt said he’s not too worried about replacing graduating senior Gage Steele. Thweatt said he has 10 total guys at the position and will get two more when the incoming freshmen class arrives. He said he’d probably be more worried about losing Steele, if JMU’s defense was complicated. Thweatt explained the system is easy to learn and it allows defenders to play fast.
- Thweatt said both linebackers Brandon Hereford and Dimitri Holloway know the MIKE and WILL positions. Thweatt trains his players to be interchangeable at both spots. Holloway still isn’t back from injury, so Maryland transfer Gus Little has earned extra snaps at the position. Thweatt said it took only six practices for Little to learn the defense.
- Earlier this week Little and early-enrollee freshman defensive tackle Marcus Hawkins spoke about the transitions they’ve made to their new team.
- Quarterback Bryan Schor said the Dukes’ offense has picked up where they left off in the fall. He said he’ll miss departed wide receivers like Brandon Ravenel, Rashard Davis and Domo Taylor, who were all seniors on the championship squad, but that he’s seen plenty of positives from Ishmael Hyman, Terrence Alls, John Miller and Riley Stapleton.
- Schor said Stapleton will “surprise a lot of people” come fall. The quarterback added he hasn’t had a receiver to throw to that has Stapleton’s size. Stapleton stands at 6-foot-4.
- Miller said this week Hyman was the best receiver on the team last year and is the team has at the position this year.
- Miller had arguably the two most important catches in each of the last two seasons – his touchdown in the semifinal at North Dakota State in 2016 and his late scoring grab at Southern Methodist in 2015. Miller said, “That’s what I do,” and added he’d continue to do whatever the team needed.
- This past fall the Colombia, S.C., native played behind Davis at both receiver and punt returner. Miller said it would be harder for him to replicate what Davis did as the punt returner than what Davis did as a receiver, but that he wants the punt returner job. Miller had a punt return score in JMU’s win over Central Connecticut State.
- Houston said Miller, D’Angelo Amos and Jimmy Moreland are all taking punt return reps at practice. Bowers added Hyman “has done a great job on kick return.”