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JMU Football Builds Recruiting Relationships In Texas

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

When JMU hired Bob Chesney as its new football coach, there were some initial questions about Chesney’s recruiting prowess. How would a coach with strong ties in the northeast recruit Virginia and other states in JMU’s neighborhood? 

Chesney quickly squashed initial concerns, citing strong connections to Pennsylvania and Maryland in his initial press conference and hiring coaches like JMU alumnus Sam Daniels, who has strong Virginia connections. A staff with experience recruiting a range of states helped alleviate doubts, as did an impressive transfer portal class

The Dukes’ new coaching staff is also attempting something few previous JMU coaches have tried: recruiting high school players from Texas. 

Anthony DiMichele, JMU’s safeties coach and recruiting coordinator, recently spent a few days  visiting high schools in the Lone Star State. JMU Sports News connected with two of the high school coaches who welcomed DiMichele for a visit, and they gave rave reviews about DiMichele and the Dukes. 

“Just after listening to Coach DiMichele talk about JMU, the campus, and the community and stuff, I told him, ‘Man, where do I sign up?’” said David Colschen, the offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator at The Woodlands High School in Woodlands, Texas, just outside of Houston.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Christopher William Jewelers for their advertising support this season. Great spot to secure a Valentine’s Day gift!

DiMichele impresses Texas coaches 

DiMichele had visited Colschen’s team previously while at Holy Cross, so the two had an existing relationship. DiMichele’s late January visit is the first time a JMU coach has visited The Woodlands High School, according to Colschen. He anticipates the JMU coach returning, given their strong relationship. 

“He’s a rockstar, man,” Colschen said. “He’s awesome. He’s very thorough, very detailed, very upfront. He does an amazing job.”

Colschen said he most appreciates DiMichele’s honesty. He doesn’t tell the coaches or players anything other than the truth about JMU’s roster, recruiting needs, etc. DiMichele is clear about what position groups the Dukes need help in, and he’s honest about how JMU feels about a high school’s prospects. 

DiMichele lets coaches and players know where they stand on JMU’s recruiting board and the areas they can improve to better their chances of playing at the FBS level. 

While DiMichele is clear about the players JMU is interested in recruiting, that doesn’t stop him from interacting positively with other players. Kolby Hull, the head football coach at The Woodlands Christian Academy (also in Woodlands, Texas), told JMU Sports News that DiMichele was praising his players for working hard during recent Mat Drills, even if they weren’t on JMU’s radar. Hull says DiMichele encouraged certain players to keep putting in the work and good things will happen. 

“He just makes those kids feel good about themselves … it gives them an opportunity to go home, tell their parents something good happened to them,” Hull said. “Whether or not Coach DiMichele is ever going to recruit them for real, it does good things for our football program.”

Foot in the door in Texas?

Texas is one of the most talent-rich football states in the country, but it typically hasn’t been a state JMU has recruited. Ben Hofer found that of JMU’s last 10 high school recruiting cycles, no JMU commits played high school football in Texas. 

That could soon change. 

Heath McRee, a three-star wide receiver and kick returner from the Austin area, is expected to announce his commitment Tuesday. McRee is down to four Group of Five schools, one of which is JMU. The class of 2024 prospect took an official visit to the school in January. 

In addition to McRee, Shane Walker (class of 2025) is a standout wide receiver from The Woodlands High School, who could be on JMU’s radar. He’s followed on social media by DiMichele, and the wide receiver has 4.4 speed and good hands. He recently received a scholarship offer from Tulsa. 

Jackson Bolander, Walker’s teammate, is another wide receiver to monitor. The 2025 prospect has been highly productive in high school, and he has track speed. A third receiver on the same team, Quanell Farrakahan, might be outside JMU’s comfort zone. 

Farrakahan (class of 2025) has offers from Alabama, Florida State, and Georgia, among others. He’s expected by some recruiting experts to be leaning toward Penn State. 

It’s premature to assume the Dukes are on the verge of creating a Texas to JMU recruiting pipeline, but DiMichele is building notable relationships with high school coaches in the state. As JMU gains national exposure – JMU appeared in the AP Top 25 in each of the last two seasons and played nine of its 13 games on national TV in 2023 – the Dukes become a more attractive and well-known destination for players outside Virginia. 

“I’m sure there’s gonna be some [Texas] guys who end up at JMU because of all the stuff it has to offer,” Colschen said. 

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