What Does JMU Football’s Offense Need in the Transfer Portal?

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

Few TV commercials grab my attention quite like Dr. Pepper “Fansville” ads. My particular favorite is a recent 30-second transfer portal commercial, which features fans going crazy as their favorite players get sucked into an actual portal. 

A distraught fan tries to save his team’s starting quarterback from entering the portal, only to let the quarterback go when he realizes he’d have to put his Dr. Pepper down to save the QB. 

“Quarterbacks are replaceable,” another fan says. 


JMU fans know this all too well. The transfer portal giveth, and the transfer portal taketh. 

For the Dukes the last few weeks, the portal took away star players. Goodbye, Mikail Kamara, James Carpenter, Jailin Walker, Aiden Fisher, Zach Horton, and other standouts. 

Hello … well, we’re not quite sure who’s coming to Harrisonburg yet.

The Dukes are in the early stages of their portal addition phase, having only added a trio of recruits. Expect that number to rise dramatically in the coming weeks, as players visit JMU and commit prior to the school’s spring academic semester beginning. Our transfer portal tracker can be found here, and we’re also tracking players offered by JMU here.

Let’s assess the position-by-position transfer portal need for JMU football’s offense, where we’d expect several major additions in the next 2-3 weeks.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Three Notch’d Brewing for their advertising support.

Quarterback: High

Whether it’s Jordan McCloud returning or the Dukes bringing in another transfer, the Dukes need help at quarterback. JMU has significant returning talent in the room for 2024, but it’s unproven. Alonza Barnett won the starting job over McCloud to begin the 2023 season, but quickly was benched in favor of the veteran. 

Billy Atkins and Barnett have combined to start two games during their JMU careers. They’re 16-44 passing for 179 yards, one touchdown, and five interceptions in those games. Brett Griffis has never started a game in his college career. 

Could one of those three players be JMU’s starting quarterback in 2024? Sure, anything is possible! But we’d be surprised if Chesney turns the offense over to one of those three without them beating out an incoming transfer (or McCloud) for the job. 

Keep an eye on Holy Cross’ Matthew Sluka and Albany’s Reese Poffenbarger as possible additions via the portal if McCloud leaves. Sluka has one year of eligibility left, while Poffenbarger has two. Sluka is an elite running quarterback, while Poffenbarger is a prolific passer with decent athleticism.

Running back: Very high

With Kaelon Black and Ty Son Lawton leaving for Indiana, we’d expect JMU to prioritize running back in the transfer portal. Returners Sammy Malignaggi and Ke’Marion Baldwin will likely have a chance to earn snaps, but they’re largely unproven at the collegiate level. 

Expect at least one addition to the running back room via the transfer portal, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see JMU add two or more players at the position.

Boston College’s Patrick Garwo is one name to monitor. He ran for 1,912 yards and 11 touchdowns across five seasons with the ACC program. He hasn’t announced an offer from the Dukes, but he’s followed on social media by JMU coaches and received a pair of other Group of Five offers. He’s a realistic addition, if the Dukes decide to offer. Once JMU’s running back coach comes into the picture, we’d expect the offers at this position group to start flowing.

Wide receiver: Moderate 

Assuming Elijah Sarratt doesn’t return to JMU, this is a position of need. It’s not as big of a need as running back or quarterback, though. 

Returners Taji Hudson, Yamir Knight, Maxwell Moss, and Omarion Dollison all have the athletic ability to be impact players in the Sun Belt. Dollison, a South Florida transfer, has blazing speed and was arguably underutilized in 2023. Other guys, like Jayden Mines and Troy Lewis, have impressed in practices but have yet to make huge impacts on Saturdays during the fall. 

JMU recently offered a scholarship to Chattanooga’s Jamoi Mayes, who recorded over 1,000 receiving yards in 2023. Could he be the next transfer wide receiver to make a huge impact for JMU?

The Dukes have offered several other receivers as well, including Emporia State’s Jaylen Varner, Idaho’s Terez Traynor, and Army’s Isaiah Alston

Offensive line: Moderate

Losing Tyler Stephens, Carter Miller, and Nick Kidwell to transfer is a tough pill to swallow, but the Dukes still have significant talent along the line. 

Center Tanner Morris is expected to return, and starting left tackle Tyshawn Wyatt withdrew his name from the portal, meaning he’s coming back to JMU. Right guard Cole Potts also plans to return. Guys like Josh Toner, Carter Sweazie, and Ronald Altman are among well-respected returners with experience. There are enough guys currently on the roster to form a good starting unit and have depth. 

Plus, the Dukes have already added a pair of linemen through the portal, most notably Holy Cross’ Patrick McMurtrie. The Dukes could easily still add another few players through the portal, but this position group should be a strength for the program in 2024. We’d look for at least one more potential starter to join the Dukes to increase internal competition at the position. 

Holy Cross’ Eric Schon and Lafayette’s Mike Barr are names to monitor. 

Tight end: Low

Zach Horton is leaving for Indiana, but returners Kyi Wright and Taylor Thompson are both capable blockers and receivers. Thompson didn’t have a chance to showcase his receiving ability much in JMU’s 2023 offense, but he could help fill a need in the passing game with the team’s three best wide receivers leaving. 

Adding an experienced tight end to compete alongside those two makes sense, but it’s not the top offseason priority.

The Dukes recently offered Murray State’s Cole Rusk, who led his team in receiving in 2023 with 507 yards and six touchdowns. He’s 6’6” and 250 lbs and received offers from multiple Power Five programs. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *