JMU notebook: Depth at wide receiver key for Dukes

HARRISONBURG –James Madison University quarterback Vad Lee, who was named the Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, garners a lot of attention. However, JMU’s receivers also play a big role in Lee’s success.

JMU has had 13 different players catch a pass this season, including eight wide receivers and two tight ends.

“It’s a great unit,” JMU head coach Everett Withers said. “It’s a great room. Those guys are playing well. It’s like all our units, I think those guys really cheer for each other. They take pride in doing well. They take pride in the little things, blocking in the run game. They take pride in making those combat catches.”

In JMU’s 51-30 victory over Towson on Saturday, the Dukes threw for 278 yards. Eight different players caught a pass. Junior wide receiver Brandon Ravenel had six catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, while fellow junior Rashard Davis had five receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown to lead the way.

Not only is the receiving corps having success, but they are also young with no seniors in the group.

“There’s just a ton of playmakers in that room,” JMU tight end Deane Cheatham said. “They don’t even have a senior in that group. They just make plays game after game, and they’re going to continue to make plays. That’s just the way that they are.”

Special freshman: JMU true freshman Charles Tutt continued to shine on Saturday.

Tutt had a 92 yard kickoff return for a touchdown with the Dukes clinging to a 27-23 lead in the third quarter. Tutt finished the game with three kickoff returns for 153 yards, and also had two tackles on JMU kickoffs and a forced fumble.

Withers said he knew Tutt was going to be special when they were recruiting him at Centreville High School.

“He’s a young talented guy. At Centreville High School he was a guy that was an explosive player,” Withers said. “He was a great return man in high school, a great cover corner. We want to continue to grow him in that area and get him on the field a little bit more.”

For the season, Tutt is averaging 41.2 yards per kickoff return, with five returns for 206 yards. He also has seven tackles on defense.

Tutt was named the Colonial Athletic Association Special Teams Players of the Week on Monday.

“We knew there was going to be a time this year that he was going to be back there either catching punts or catching kickoffs, or maybe both,” Withers said. “There may be a time this year where he’s doing both.”

Healthy Dukes:
A part of JMU’s 6-0 start this season has come from the team being able to stay healthy.

The Dukes haven’t had many injuries, and most of them have been minor. Withers said Cornell Urkhart and Casey Kroll should be back this week after being out a few weeks with concussions.

Withers said the players have done things the right way, which is part of why they have been able to stay healthy.

“Credit to our players for taking care of their bodies, and being what we call pros in how they take care of their bodies,” Withers said. “Chelsea Burkhart and (director of football strength and conditioning) Aaron Burkhart do an unbelievable job in our strength and conditioning and our nutrition area. I think that’s a big, big key for us.”

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