Dukes Wide Receiver Room Poised for Major Impact in 2024

Photo courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Jack Fitzpatrick

We all know the state of the JMU wide receiver room. Young, inexperienced, but potential. 

JMU lost two 1,000 yard receivers in Reggie Brown and Elijah Sarratt and a top slot option in Phoenix Sproles due to graduation and the transfer portal. Casually, 91 percent of the wide receiver production is out the door. 

The Dukes did attempt to replace some of that production through the transfer portal. Head coach Bob Chesney added UConn transfer Cameron Ross and Mississippi State transfer Nakai Poole. Those two additions come into a room with Taji Hudson, Omarion Dollison, Yamir Knight and Maxwell Moss. 

The room itself doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence on paper. 

To replace 2,687 receiving yards, 22 touchdowns and 187 receptions, JMU brought in two transfer receivers that combined for 114 receptions and 1,356 yards with six touchdowns across 28 games played. (All of those stats are actually all from Ross, Poole has yet to play a collegiate snap.) 

However, the potential in the room is pretty high considering the lack of experience.  

“It’s going to be a very competitive room,” former JMU wide receiver Phoenix Sproles said in an interview with the JMU Sports News Podcast. “There are so many guys that can start for JMU right now. Taji [Hudson], Yamir [Knight], Max [Moss] and Omarion [Dollison]… I expect no step off from what we did. I expect them to be even better.”

Taji Hudson, a former quarterback turned wide receiver, is coming off his first year at JMU after starting his collegiate, and wide receiver career, at ECU.

When Hudson initially got to JMU, he was the WR2 behind Reggie Brown. Then a combination of Sarratt being undeniable and an injury bug sent Hudson down the depth chart starting Week 5 against South Alabama. However, the talent is clearly there if he was able to beat out Sarratt. 

“You got Taji who showed glimpses of what he could,” Sproles said. “He’s only going to capitalize on that.” 

Hudson finished 2023 hauling in eight catches on 10 targets. After sliding down the depth chart Hudson didn’t see the field a ton after the month of September however now with an additional 13 games played, there is a chance Hudson’s development makes him a candidate to burst on to the scene in 2024 as a WR1 or WR2. 

A big name to watch going into 2024 is the USF transfer Omarion Dollison. Dollison is a speedster who was hardly utilized under Mike Shananhan, the former offensive coordinator, and Curt Cignetti. 

Dollison touched the ball just three times in 2023, however he scored a touchdown on one of those touches and the other two resulted in first downs. He averaged 26.7 yards a touch. 

“Omarion [Dollison], whatever his role is, I think he’ll have a crazy season,” Sproles said. “The work he does, I haven’t seen an athlete like him… he’s a prototype receiver.” 

At 5-9, 182 pounds the Columbia, SC native will be going into his senior year and under Chesney and new offensive coordinator Dean Kennedy, Dollison should be a dark horse to be named to the All-Sun Belt team at season’s end. 

As for the transfers, a late signing really changes the trajectory of the room. 

Cameron Ross was a monster, when healthy, at UConn. This last season he had 42 catches for 572 yards and 2 touchdowns. 

He averaged 10.40 yards per play, the most of any player with 10+ touches this season for the Huskies, and a solid 0.59 expected points added per play which would have been the third best for JMU receivers this past season, just ahead of Sproles. 

There is no dancing around it though. There are a ton of question marks swirling around this group. Poole, out of Mississippi State, was a 3-star recruit but didn’t sniff the field in his lone year in the SEC and Knight and Moss have not consistently played for JMU as both are headed into their sophomore year.

It is a young room going into 2024 and after what Brown, Sarratt and Sproles did this past season, there are some high expectations for the receivers and this offense. I am going to be the optimist on this one and believe there is a legitimate shot this room is better in 2024 than it was in 2023. Dollison was severely under used, Hudson is talented and has more experience now as a receiver and Ross is a proven go to receiver. 

What are your thoughts on the wide receiver room going into 2024? Let us know in the comments! 

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