Meet the Coaches Helping JMU Football with its Bowl Game Preparation

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

JMU football will play Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 23, and the Dukes will do so without former head coach Curt Cignetti. After Cignetti left for Indiana, the JMU program brought in a group of coaches to help prepare the Dukes for a challenging triple option opponent. 

Damian Wroblewski, the offensive line coach, is JMU’s acting head coach and will be for the bowl game. The longtime assistant is leading the offense and dealing with crafting practice plans. He met with the media Wednesday and explained some of the additional coaching help the Dukes are receiving ahead of next Saturday’s contest.

Current staffers

Marcus Hall-Oliver, safeties coach –  The safeties coach and recruiting coordinator is serving as the program’s defensive coordinator for the bowl game. Hall-Oliver also met with the media Wednesday. 

Jarred Holley, CB – The Dukes’ cornerbacks coach is still with the program, and he’s helping with bowl prep. 

Eddie Whitley Jr, Rovers – Another defensive backs coach still around, Whitley and Holley should ensure the Dukes’ secondary is plenty comfortable ahead of the bowl contest.

Nick Kidwell, OL – A current offensive lineman, Kidwell is helping coach the offensive line while out with injury.

Bob Chesney, new head coach – The Dukes’ new head coach has said in interviews he won’t play a major role in the bowl game preparation, but he will implement certain practice drills to show current players what 2024 practices might look like. Coaches have said he’s brought an increased energy and juice to practice in his limited capacity. 

Other staffers – JMU also has a few graduate assistants and support staffers still listed on the active coaching staff, such as former linebacker Dimitri Holloway.

Outside helpers

John Strollo, retired coach – A longtime college coach, Strollo coached Wroblewski during his playing days in the late 1990s at Lafayette. Strollo has spent time coaching at Duke and Penn State, among other stops. Strollo also once coached at a school that ran the triple option. 

“I called him up, I said, ‘I need your help,’ and he said, ‘When do I get there?’” Wroblewski said. 

Brian Ginn, former Chicago Bears assistant – A special teams assistant with the Chicago Bears in 2020 and 2021, Ginn is helping the Dukes’ special teams unit. Ginn was a former Delaware quarterback – he ran the Wing T – and longtime assistant with the Blue Hens. 

John Reagan, former Maryland assistant – A former Maryland offensive line coach, Reagan also coached at Air Force and Army previously. He’s familiar with triple option teams, which is part of why Wroblewski enlisted his help.

Matt Hachmann, Stony Brook assistant – Hachmann, who was Stony Brook’s defensive coordinator and associate head coach in 2023, is consulting with JMU’s defense. Wroblewski says he knows how to defend the triple option well. Current defensive coordinator Marcus Hall-Oliver told the media he’s never faced a triple option opponent. 

Stone Mannello, Stony Brook assistant – Mannello worked with Stony Brook’s defensive line this season, and he’s aiding the Dukes in bowl prep in a support staff role.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever find the words of gratitude and thanks for these people, but they left their families, they left their jobs, to come be here for three weeks with us and help us have a great bowl experience,” Wroblewski said.  

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