JMU Football’s Coaching Staff Under Bob Chesney

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

Bob Chesney’s first JMU coaching staff is officially official. Let’s break down the Dukes’ impressive group of coaches ahead of the 2024 season.

WATCH | Our Coaching Staff Breakdown on the JMU Sports News Podcast

Offense/special teams

Dean Kennedy, OC/QB – Kennedy will follow Chesney from Holy Cross and serve as the team’s offensive coordinator. He will also coach quarterbacks. Kennedy led the Holy Cross offense in 2023 after working as the quarterbacks coach for the Crusaders in 2022. Prior to Holy Cross, Kennedy worked as an assistant quarterbacks coach at Florida in 2021.

Holy Cross led the Patriot League in scoring in 2023, averaging 36.9 points per game. That mark was seventh nationally.

Damian Wroblewski, Associate HC for Offense and OL – Chesney is retaining Wroblewski as the team’s offensive line coach. The longtime Cignetti assistant is a veteran coach with an impressive track record at Elon and JMU. He also worked at Delaware and Rutgers previously, among other stops. Keeping him should offer the offensive line an immediate boost in 2024 and beyond.

David Sims Jr, RB – Sims played at Georgia Tech, and he’s most recently spent three years coaching running backs at Penn. He also spent a few seasons at Furman, and he’s well adept at recruiting various southern states, a plus for the Dukes off the field.

Justin Harper, WR – A Virginia Tech graduate, Harper most recently coached tight ends at Old Dominion. He also recently spent four seasons coaching Towson’s wide receivers.

Drew Canan, ST and TE – Canan served as the special teams coordinator for Holy Cross, and he’ll take on the same role at JMU, per ESPN. Holy Cross’ special teams unit has been among the best at the FCS level for several seasons. The team led the FCS in 2022 with eight blocked kicks.

Chris Zarkoskie, analyst – Zarkoskie coached Holy Cross’ offensive line in 2023, and he’ll work as an offensive analyst for the Dukes. Holy Cross had arguably the best offensive front of any Patriot League team in 2023, with four linemen landing on the First and Second All Patriot League teams.

Matt Moran, special teams analyst – Moran comes to JMU from Boston College, where he spent the 2023 season as a special teams analyst.

Mike Cordova, graduate assistant – Cordova coached Holy Cross’ running backs in 2023, and he’ll join the Dukes as a graduate assistant. He also has special teams coaching experience.

Nick Sproles, graduate assistant – Sproles was an offensive quality control coach for the Crusaders in 2023.

Defense/Strength

Lyle Hemphill, DC/nickels – Hemphill’s hire is a massive one. He served as Duke’s co-defensive coordinator in 2023, helping the Blue Devils’ stellar defense. Only Florida State allowed fewer points among ACC programs. Hemphill also served as Wake Forest’s defensive coordinator from 2019-21.

Sam Daniels, DL – Daniels, a two-time All-American during his JMU playing days, comes to JMU after two seasons as Delaware’s defensive line coach. The Blue Hens made the playoffs in 2022 and 2023. He’s also coached at Richmond, Howard, and Bridgewater, among other stops. He knows the area well (a plus in recruiting) and is an experienced defensive line coach to replace Pat Kuntz.

Zach Sparber, LB – Sparber worked as a defensive analyst with Duke since February of 2021, working mostly with linebackers. He previously spent three seasons as a graduate assistant with Virginia Tech. 24/7 Sports reported the hire.

Eddie Whitley Jr, Rovers – Whitley is being retained by Chesney to held coach the defensive backs, per ESPN. Whitley came to JMU in Feb. 2020, and he previously coached at Bridgewater. He knows the area well, which should be a boost in recruiting.

Anthony DiMichele, Safeties, recruiting coordinator – DiMichele coached the Holy Cross safeties in 2023 and also acted as the team’s recruiting coordinator. Additionally, he’s also coached running backs and special teams before, but he’ll work with JMU’s secondary.

Jason Novak, Strength and Conditioning – Novak comes to JMU after working as the head strength and conditioning coach at Michigan State under Mel Tucker. He also worked at Central Michigan previously, leading their strength program from 2015-19.

Paul Cipriano, associate director of strength and conditioning – Cipriano comes to JMU from Michigan State, as he’s quite familiar assisting Novak.

Kyle Barnes, analyst – Barnes worked as Holy Cross’ cornerbacks coach in 2022 and 2023. His primary recruiting areas were Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, and West Virginia, which makes him a natural recruiting fit in Harrisonburg.

Justice Seales, graduate assistant – Seales worked as a graduate assistant with UConn in 2023. He was a defensive quality control coach for Holy Cross the season prior, giving him familiarity with Chesney.

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