JMU roundup: Dukes picked second in CAA in media poll
BALTIMORE, Md. – James Madison was predicted to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association football standings while redshirt senior tight end Deane Cheatham and redshirt junior offensive lineman Mitchell Kirsch were both selected to the Preseason All-CAA Team, as announced at CAA Football Media Day on Tuesday morning at M&T Bank Stadium.
In his inaugural season as head coach, Everett Withers led the Dukes to a 9-4 overall record, third-place finish in the CAA, at 6-2, and a berth in the 2014 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, where it hosted Liberty in the first round. It marked the first time since 2011 that JMU made the playoffs and the first time since 2008 that it played a home playoff game.
JMU’s offense broke numerous school records last season, including total offense (6,300), passing yards (3,499), completions (286) and passing touchdowns (30). JMU produced the most prolific offense in the CAA with 484.6 yards per game, which ranked 10th in the country. The Dukes also ranked 21st in FCS in both passing offense (269.2) and rushing offense (215.15) and boasted the 17th-best scoring team (35.7) in the nation.
Defensively, the Dukes ranked second in the country in turnover margin (+1.08), 12th in total fumble recoveries (14) and 13th in sacks per game (2.85). They also turned in one of their best season on record in terms of blocks, ranking sixth in total blocks (7) and third in blocked punts (4).
Cheatham started all 10 games he played last season, tallying 42 receptions for 453 yards and two touchdowns, on his way to being named First Team All-State by the Virginia Sports Information Directors. He recorded his first 100-yard game at Villanova (Sept. 20) with six catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. Cheatham also caught a career-high eight passes for 71 yards in the road win at Charlotte (Oct. 25). He produced at least 50 yards receiving in five games and made a catch in all 10 games.
Kirsch started all 13 games last season and was named to the All-CAA Second Team and VaSID All-State Second Team. He was part of an offensive line that led the CAA with 497 yards of offense per game and a league-best 39.9 points per game during conference play. Kirsch blocked for Associated Press Third Team All-American quarterback Vad Lee, who led the offense to more than 30 points in eight games, including four with 48 or more points.
Villanova was selected as the preseason favorite in the CAA and its quarterback John Robertson and linebacker Don Cherry were named CAA Football preseason Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year.
JMU opens the 2015 season, presented by CarMax, on Saturday, Sept. 5 at home against Morehead State. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and all ticket packages are on sale now by going to www.jmutickets.com or by calling 540-568-3853.