Predicting JMU Football’s 2024 Roster Before Spring Ball

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

JMU football is still more than six months away from kicking off its 2024 season against Charlotte, but the Dukes are preparing for the 2024 season via offseason workouts. Soon, they’ll officially start spring practices, and April 20 they’ll play their spring game. 

There are plenty of roster questions for the Dukes, who overhauled their roster this season following numerous graduations and transfer departures. Players who weren’t on the roster last fall are expected to play major roles for JMU in 2024. 

While this list will almost certainly become outdated in the coming months, let’s have some fun and project a JMU starting lineup before spring ball begins. 

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

The offense

QB – Dylan Morris

RB – Ayo Adeyi

WR – Cam Ross

WR – Omarion Dollison

WR – Taji Hudson

TE – Kyi Wright

LT – Tyshawn Wyatt

LG – Carter Sweazie

C – Tanner Morris

RG – Cole Potts

RT – Patrick McMurtrie

Morris, a Washington transfer, feels like the heavy favorite to get the nod at quarterback. He has Power Five starting experience, while the other quarterbacks on the roster have two combined starts at the Group of Five level.

Adeyi, a North Texas transfer, ran for over 1,000 yards last season. I’d anticipate him and Cam Ross, a UConn transfer, playing key roles at skill positions. 

I can be talked into several other receivers starting over Dollison and Hudson, but those two have multiple years of experience playing college football. Dollison has elite speed, and Hudson has good size and blocks well. Guys like Maxwell Moss, Yamir Knight, Troy Lewis, and Jayden Mines should be in the mix to earn meaningful snaps. Keep an eye on Nakai Poole and Dylan Williams as young names to watch. 

JMU may also add another wide receiver in the portal in the spring, as the Dukes could benefit from another productive veteran entering the mix. If they don’t add another receiver in the portal, it suggests to me that they’re comfortable with guys like Dollison and Hudson taking a major leap in production. 

At tight end, Wright was Zack Horton’s primary backup a season ago. He’s capable of playing a big role in 2024. 

Along the offensive line, I’d expect Wyatt and Morris to be locked in as starters. I anticipate Quincy Jenkins and Josh Toner being firmly in the mix for earning other starting spots. Offensive line depth should be a strength for JMU in 2024, which means starting spots should be up for grabs through the fall.

Given the potential for a much better rushing attack in 2024, I’d anticipate the Dukes having one of the five-best scoring offenses in the Sun Belt. I still have questions about JMU’s passing attack, with lots of unproven potential at receiver and Morris not having started a game since 2021. 

The defense/specialists

DE – Eric O’Neill

DT – Immanuel Bush

DT – Tyrique Tucker

DE – Terry Lockett

LB – Taurus Jones

LB – Jacob Dobbs

LB – Trent Hendrick

CB – D’Angelo Ponds

CB – Chauncey Logan

S – Terrence Spence

S – Jacob Thomas

K – Nick Gonzalez

P – Ryan Hanson

LS – Jake Mowrey 

Much like the offensive line, the defensive line has depth for days. I’m high on Eric O’Neill (LIU) and Terry Lockett (Syracuse), a pair of transfers with All-Sun Belt potential. Abi Nwabuoku-Okonji, Amar Thomas, and Lloyd Summerall (USF) figure to earn time at defensive end, too. It’s possible Lockett spends some time inside as well, especially with the plethora of options on the edge.

I have the Dukes running a 4-3 in my projection, but they could easily run a 4-2-5 look, which is what Duke ran last year under new JMU defensive coordinator Lyle Hemphill. I went with the 4-3 because I like JMU’s linebacker depth more than the defensive back depth, at least right now. 

Jacob Dobbs and Taurus Jones should see the field a ton. Trent Hendrick and Raymond Scott should also work in at linebacker, giving the Dukes at least four starting caliber linebackers. 

At defensive back, I’ve given the starting cornerback spots to the team’s returning starters. I slotted in Jacob Thomas at safety, and Holy Cross transfer Terrence Spence at the other safety spot. Spence was listed as a corner at Holy Cross, but I want him in my starting lineup. It’s possible he’s in a cornerback role in a five-man secondary, if the Dukes go with a 4-2-5 rather than a 4-3. 

While depth looks like an issue at defensive back – the Dukes are really young and unproven at safety, hence why I penciled Spence in at the position – the starting defensive unit looks nasty. JMU’s defensive front shouldn’t see much of a dip from last season, and the linebackers are experienced and bigger than last fall. Ponds might be the best cornerback in the Group of Five. 

If JMU can bolster its secondary depth through player development or spring portal additions, there’s no reason the Dukes can’t field a top-3 Sun Belt scoring defense. 

Way-too-early record prediction

JMU’s 2024 schedule is manageable, with the Dukes playing their Sun Belt East peers, ULM, Southern Miss, Charlotte, Gardner-Webb, North Carolina, and Ball State. Going 3-1 or 4-0 in the nonconference feels attainable, and a 6-2 (or better) league record isn’t outlandish. 

I’ll go the overly optimistic route and say JMU goes 11-1 in 2024 and plays in the Sun Belt Championship. JMU lost talent and coaches, but new head coach Bob Chesney has led his team to a top-2 finish in its conference in nine consecutive seasons. Chesney wins, and he’s inheriting a program ready to win big immediately.

The Dukes also reloaded in the transfer portal in a way I’m not sure most people fully appreciate. The portal haul includes a former Power Five starting quarterback, the 2023 AAC yards per carry leader, two 2023 FCS Conference Defensive Players of the Year, and a starting ACC defensive lineman. JMU also returns key starters like Wyatt, Morris, Jones, and Ponds, among others. 

There’s no denying JMU lost a lot from its 2023 team, but the 2024 roster looks poised to contend for a College Football Playoff spot.

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