Who is the Greatest JMU Quarterback?

All images courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Jack Fitzpatrick

This may be one of the toughest questions to answer. 

Who is the greatest JMU QB since 2000? 

Since the turn of the new millennium, JMU has won two national championships, appeared in another two, made the FCS playoffs at a consistent clip and had seven QBs crack the top 10 list in most total yards in a career. 

That is pretty darned good! But ever since I created a JMU Twitter firestorm with this tweet… 

I have been hell bent on truly determining who the greatest is. I put the question on Twitter, I have asked friends, random strangers in Harrisonburg, I even asked my dog Frank! Essentially a different answer every time. 

So, I made a formula and went to work to get to the bottom of it. 

Before we truly buckle down and try to decipher who is the greatest JMU QB, I want to take a moment and give props to Eriq Williams (1989-92), Mike Cawley (1993-95) and Greg Maddox (1996-98). 

All of which tore it up for the Dukes and really helped lay the foundation for where the Dukes are at today. I didn’t include them because the game was vastly different pre 2000. Heck it is different with Curt Cignetti than it was with Everett Withers. Comparing the two eras was just a little too difficult so I stuck with 2000-present. 

The Formula

  • 1 point for every 1,000 total yards
  • 1 point for every 10 total TDs 
  • -1 point for every 5 INTs thrown
  • 1 point for every postseason win
  • 1 point for every time their name appears in the record book for career or season record
  • 5 points for winning a national championship 

The QBs that were ranked

  • Todd Centeio (2022)
  • Cole Johnson (2016-21)
  • Ben DiNucci (2018-19)
  • Bryan Schor (2014-17)
  • Vad Lee (2014-15)
  • Michael Birdsong (2012-13)
  • Justin Thorpe (2008-12)
  • Rodney Landers (2005-08)
  • Justin Rascati (2004-06)

The Rankings 

  1. Bryan Schor

Schor has the record for most total yards in a career (8,241), most passing touchdowns (62), most total touchdowns (83) and helped JMU bring its first National Championship to the Valley since 2004. Schor also orchestrated a near perfect season his final year in 2017 falling just short to North Dakota State in the National Championship. 

Schor may not have been extremely flashy with amazing runs. He may not have been the most athletic. He was just a quarterback. But he won. And he won, a lot. He was the perfect quarterback in the perfect moment and that doesn’t happen often. Bryan Schor took his opportunity after Vad Lee left and finished his career with his name all over the record book. 

He deserves more respect from the JMU Fanbase when we talk about the best of all time. 

  1. Rodney Landers

Landers was the full time guy in 2007 and 2008. The Dukes came up short in the playoffs his first year as the starter and an injury derailed the team’s chances at winning a Natty in 2008. 

I believe that’s why Landers holds so much weight in the JMU Alumni community. He was GREAT. But his career is surrounded with a huge ‘What if?’ 

He was the team’s starting running back and quarterback. An old school football version of Shohei Ohtani was playing in Harrisonburg, VA. Most schools wanted him to play defensive back, JMU wanted him to be one of the most electric and exciting players ever. 

However, he comes up 6.5 points short of Schor on this list, in large part due to his lack of postseason success. He does hold the most records of all the QBs on this list. 

  1. Justin Rascati

Arguably the first great modern JMU quarterback. Rascati brought the school its first national championship and put up some impressive numbers in the process. 

  • 7,111 Total Yards
  • 71 Total TDs 
  • 4 Postseason wins
  • 1 National Championship 

That postseason success will always keep him near the top of these lists. 

  1. Vad Lee

Lee was the leader of the resurgence. JMU lacked the QB star power in the years following Rascati and Landers.

Then Everett Withers was hired and managed to land Vad Lee, a transfer QB from Georgia Tech. Lee proceeded to dominate seemingly every FCS defense he faced. 

Vad Lee even demolished FBS defenses! He set the school record for most yards in a game vs. SMU with 565. Lee, in two seasons as the starter, had 7,292 total yards, accounted for 68 touchdowns and etched his name all over the record books. 

The only thing that evaded him was postseason wins due to poor defense or injuries. 

Vad Lee is the reason JMU is in the position it is in now. He broke the program out of the mediocrity it was in and catapulted the Dukes to the national spotlight. I can’t contextualize that in this formula, but in theory it could be with like 10 points. 

  1. Cole Johnson

What a career. Starting in 2016, his spot starts in the wake of the Bryan Schor injury were key in the Dukes making the National Championship run. After that he sat for another 3 years finally getting his shot in 2020. Then he was benched during the 2020 spring season after a shaky start but after a COVID outbreak gave him his job back. He proceeded to dominate. 

A sixth year senior that threw for 41 touchdowns his final year, 11 more than the next closest on the list. He truly evolved every year in Harrisonburg. 

  1. Ben DiNucci

The difference between 2018 DiNucci and 2019 DiNucci might be the difference between Dak Prescott and well… Ben DiNucci. 

If DiNucci played like he did in 2019 for both years he could have jumped up the rankings. He got the Dukes to the National Championship in 2019 behind a stellar CAA Offensive Player of the Year performance and finished his career with 6,718 total yards and 61 total TDs. 

In all honesty, I could ding him for that 5 interception performance vs. Colgate though. 

  1. Todd Centeio 

It speaks volumes that Centeio played just 10 games in the purple & gold, had the least total yards of any QB on this list and still finished ahead of the final two quarterbacks. You could argue he deserves more points because he did it all against FBS teams, so let’s say he gets a 25 percent boost, he still checks in at number seven. A 25 percent boost gets him to 12.9, 5.3 behind DiNucci. 

No postseason hurts him in this formula as does playing a limited number of games. Centeio with the eye test though, wow! If he played 2+ years in Harrisonburg he could have been looking at the top 5. 

  1. Michael Birdsong

Birdsong had the 7th most total yards in a season during the 2013 year, then dipped after Mickey Matthews was fired and Withers was brought in. 

Birdsong would go on to Marshall where he never played a snap, then finish his collegiate career at Tennessee Tech and played professionally overseas. 

What a flash it was that resulted in no postseason. 

  1. Justin Thorpe

Thorpe is 9th all-time in total yards for the Dukes with 5,412. He finished his career with 38 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. The most INTs of anyone on this list. He did win one postseason game, but he could not replicate the success Rodney Landers had. 

Twitter Poll Results

What is your ranking of the greatest JMU QBs? Let us know over on twitter or in the comments!

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