Receivers still a strength for Dukes this season

From left to right, JMU's Deane Cheatham, Vad Lee, Gage Steele and Alex Mosley pose after Saturday's practice. They were selected captains for the upcoming season. Courtesy photo/JMU Athletics Communications.

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University may have lost some wide receivers last season to graduation, but the Dukes’ passing game should still be very strong this season.

The Dukes, who open their season at home at 6 p.m. Saturday against Morehead State, will once again be running a spread offense with a fast-paced hurry-up style.

Last year quarterback Vad Lee threw for a school-record 3,462 yards, and was the leading rusher with 826 yards.

The Dukes lost top receivers Daniel Brown and DeAndre Smith to graduation, but Lee will still have plenty of options to throw the ball to.

“We’ve got a good group of receivers,” Lee said in a recent interview. “We’ve got some experienced guys returning. A lot of guys that caught passes like Rashad Davis and Brandon Ravenel. Then having that tight end core like Deane Cheatham and Jonathan Kloosterman — we have a lot of experience there. We’re keeping it rolling in the passing game. Nothing’s going to stop us.”

Ravenel is the top returning receiver. The junior had 38 receptions for 535 yards and five touchdowns last year.

“He’s definitely becoming a leader of that group, and it’s pretty cool that I can communicate with him and tell him what I see from the receiver aspect and just be on the same page,” Lee said of Ravenel.

“He’s really been taking that group, because we have a lot of young guys in that group, and he’s the oldest guy. He has to be the leader in that group. He’s done an amazing job so far, and he’ll continue to get better daily as well.”

CAPTAIN QUARTET: JMU announced its captains for the upcoming season this past weekend. Lee, defensive lineman Alex Mosley, Cheatham and linebacker Gage Steele will be this year’s captains.

The captains were voted on by their teammates. Withers said in a press release that 20 guys received votes.

“I believe when you have 20 guys getting votes, that means your program is headed in the right direction and you have a lot of guys doing the right things,” Withers said in the press release. “It’s really an honor to be a part and be associated with a team that has that many guys get votes, and obviously the four guys who got it are really special to our program.”

Steele, a Warren County graduate, is the only non-senior among the captains. Steele had 55 tackles and an interception in 11 games last year.

The redshirt junior battled through an injury early in the season last year. In an interview two weeks ago he said that he is healthy, and feeling good about the upcoming season.

“Ever since last year I’ve started looking to how I could make my body the best it can be without getting injured, and that’s just all I’ve been focused on,” Steele said. “This summer was definitely the time to do it. I’m just looking to preform well for my team this year.”

FULL RIDE: Kloosterman, a Strasburg graduate, was recently given a scholarship by JMU.

The tight end walked on to the team last year and earned playing time. He had six catches for 91 yards for the Dukes last year.

Withers said at JMU’s media day last weekend that JMU gave scholarships to several players earlier that week and it was a surprise to all of them and very much earned.

Kloosterman has earned the No. 2 tight end spot for the Dukes this season behind Cheatham. In a scrimmage two weeks ago, Kloosterman caught two touchdown passes.

“Kloos is one of those guys that works hard,” Withers said after the scrimmage. “He doesn’t say a whole bunch. He’s productive when he’s out there. He’s gotten better since the day he’s got here. He just needs to keep getting better.”

Kloosterman isn’t the only local athlete to earn a scholarship recently. The University of Pittsburgh announced this weekend that Sherando graduate George Aston has been given a scholarship. Aston is scheduled to start at fullback this weekend against Youngstown State.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com