Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Bennett Conlin
Today marks three weeks until the start of JMU football’s 2019 season. Training camp is intensifying, the quarterback battle is becoming more clear and students return to campus in the next week or two. It’s fall, and the feeling of football is in the air.
Last week we continued our weekly countdown series by looking at four reasons Ben DiNucci is poised for a strong 2019 season. Today we’ll look at the Dukes’ three most underrated players. These are guys with All-CAA potential that aren’t receiving All-CAA hype.
Jake Brown, Wide Receiver
Brown flies (relatively) under the radar. People often forget that this will be Brown’s fourth season in the JMU program. The redshirt junior has been around for years, and he’s gotten better each season.
True freshman season: Brown redshirted
Redshirt freshman season: Brown saw action in two games
Redshirt sophomore season: Brown played in 11 games with five starts and recorded 38 receptions for 455 yards and two touchdowns
While it’s no guarantee that Brown posts better stats this season in a run-focused offense, he’s expected to be a top option for the Dukes. He’s reliable, fast and bigger than most receivers on the roster with the obvious exception of Riley Stapleton. He can play in the slot or move outside, and he’s a matchup problem for defenses, especially with guys like Stapleton, Kyndel Dean and Brandon Polk expected to attract significant attention.
Last season Brown was JMU’s third leading receiver in terms of receptions, yards and touchdowns, but he rarely gets talked about by casual fans. Expect a strong 2019 season from the experienced wideout. Greg Madia recently wrote about Brown, who seems like he’s losing his under-the-radar label quickly as media members and die-hard fans recognize Brown’s talent level.
Mike Greene, Defensive Tackle
JMU’s defense is stacked, so it’s easy to forget about the defensive tackle position. Greene isn’t going to grab interceptions like Rashad Robinson, and he isn’t going to surpass 100 tackles like Dimitri Holloway, but Greene is an immovable force up front.
The junior recorded 41 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2018. He started all 13 games as a sophomore, and saved one of his best games for last. In the 23-20 loss to Colgate, Greene posted nine tackles and a forced fumble.
Listed at 285 lbs on the team roster, Greene is one of JMU’s strongest players. He’s a beast in the middle of a defensive line that lacks experienced depth, which makes him one of JMU’s most important players. When he’s in the game, he clogs the middle and lets Ron’Dell Carter and John Daka get after the quarterback from the outside. Against the run, Greene is prolific. He frequently beats offensive linemen and tends to be in the right place at the right time, like he was when he recovered a fumble in the season opener against NC State.
Greene is a First Team All-CAA talent, but he still doesn’t get talked about as much as he should. If the junior posts two more quality seasons, he’s going to be an enticing NFL prospect when he graduates.
Percy Agyei-Obese, Running Back
JMU wants to run the football, and nobody on JMU’s roster does that better than Agyei-Obese. The junior tailback is a workhorse with big-play ability, and he’s a First Team All-CAA type of talent, especially in JMU’s run-first offensive attack.
Agyei-Obese only has 66 carries through his first two seasons, which means his body should be fresh and ready for a bigger workload in 2019. The talented runner averaged 6.7 yards per carry and has a pair of rushing touchdowns through two seasons.
Assuming he gets about 15 carries a game across 12 regular-season games and maintains his yards per carry average, Agyei-Obese would run for just over 1,200 yards in the regular season alone. Given JMU’s offensive philosophy, there’s a chance the running back gets closer to 1,500 yards this season if he hits a few big plays and the Dukes go deep into the postseason.
Projected stats are meaningless, but it’s reasonable to think Agyei-Obese could be JMU’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Khalid Abdullah rushed for 1,809 yards during the 2016 national championship run. Agyei-Obese has the talent, and he doesn’t have a ton of immediate competition — outside of Jawon Hamilton — for other backs to take carries off his plate.
The Dukes want to run this season, and Agyei-Obese should benefit from Curt Cignetti’s offensive philosophy.