James Madison Dukes Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the James Madison season with what you need to know and keys to the season.
James Madison Dukes Preview
Head Coach: Curt Cignetti, 4th year at JMU, 33-5
12th year overall, 100-31
2021 Record: Overall: 12-2, Conference: 7-1
Keys To The Season | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
James Madison Top 10 Players | James Madison Schedule
James Madison Dukes Preview 2022
James Madison isn’t just entering FBS life in the Sun Belt looking to have a good time.
Oh it will – this fan base is jacked for the upgrade to the big-time – but this is a program used to winning lots and lots of games, going to the FCS Playoffs on a regular basis, and doing it all with plenty of big pop to the offense and with a defense that comes in smoking.
And then there’s the obvious X factor – just how quickly can this program adapt, adjust, and be ready for life against the bigger teams with the depth and talent it hasn’t faced in a long time.
The last game against an FBS program was the opener of the 2019 season. It was a good 20-13 loss to West Virginia, and the 24-13 opener loss to NC State in 2018 was tough, but the 2017 powerhouse blew out East Carolina and there’s going to be no fear factor with the parts currently in place.
The team isn’t eligible for a bowl game this year – totally silly, by the way – and there’s no pressure whatsoever in the transition.
This is about adapting, adjusting, and establishing itself as a potential Sun Belt power.
James Madison Dukes Preview 2022: Offense
With seven starters expected back and a whole lot of good new guys from the transfer portal, the offense is going to work. It was No. 1 in the Colonial Athletic Association last year and overall it was 17th in the FCS with one of the nation’s most efficient lower-level passing games.
QB Cole Johnson was the CAA Offensive Player of the Year and now he needs to be replaced, and star receiver Antwane Wells is off to South Carolina, but …
Getting Todd Centeio from Colorado State will be a big help in the thin quarterback situation. Backup Billy Atkins got in a little work last year, but Centeio is a five-year veteran who can run as well as bomb away.
Yeah, the loss of the 83 catches, 15 touchdowns, and 15 yards per catch from Wells hurt, and the Dukes have to replace three of their top four receivers, but Kris Thornton is back after also catching 83 passes for close to 1,100 yards and 13 scores. Getting the 97 catches from Boston College veteran Kobay White helps.
The offensive line will instantly be a factor in the Sun Belt. Four starters are expected back around all-star tackle Nick Kidwell. Overall it has to be a bit better in pass protection, but it’ll bash away for the running game.
The passing game was the star last year, but the O gets back 947-yard back Latrele Palmer and adds another 220-pounder in AJ Davis from Pitt in what should be a good and deep rotation.
James Madison Dukes Preview 2022: Defense
The defense was every bit as good as the high-powered offense, but it loses a whole lot more talent. Last year’s D allowed just 275 yards and 15 points per game with a fantastic pass rush and production everywhere.
The star power losses might be big, but …
The defensive line will still get into the backfield. Pass rusher Bryce Carter is done, but Isaac Ukwu is an all-star end who’s back after making nine tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss. The interior was young and should have a good rotation around veteran Tony Thurston on the nose. However, there’s not a ton of massive bulk inside.
Losing leading tackler Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey to Texas stings. He made 116 tackles with four picks, and the linebacking corps also loses second-leading tackler Kelvin Azanama. This isn’t a deep group for the 4-2-5, and the young backups from last year have to rise up.
The secondary is in better shape – at least it will be in time. Only two starters are back, but Sam Kidd is a terrific all-around safety tied with Chris Chukwuneke as the leading returning tackler with 60 stops. The transfer portal is bringing in the bodies for the rest of the backfield.
Jarius Reimonenq is a veteran all-around defensive back – he’ll be a safety – from Arkansas State, and Deon Jones is a veteran safety who played at Maryland and Boston College.