JMU football notebook: Houston pleased with Dukes’ progress

JMU's Bryan Schor  makes a pass against William & Mary last season. Schor and the Dukes open the season on Sept. 3 against Morehead State. Courtesy photo/JMU Athletics Communications

JMU's Bryan Schor makes a pass against William & Mary last season. Schor and the Dukes open the season on Sept. 3 against Morehead State. Courtesy photo/JMU Athletics Communications

HARRISONBURG – James Madison University has only 10 days left before its first game of the season, and first-year coach Mike Houston said the coaching staff will begin to scale back on how hard they are working the players to get them ready for next week.

“The guys are tired,” Houston said after practice on Tuesday morning. “They’ve worked very hard. They’ve practiced very hard. Now we’re at the point now where we’re going to start backing off of them. Start helping them get their legs back – rest, recovery all that stuff.”

The Dukes have been practicing for 15 days, including some two-a-days. On Saturday, JMU players had a scrimmage against each other at Bridgeforth Stadium.

Houston said that he was pleased with what he saw from the team.

“I think we saw a lot of positive things,” Houston said. “I thought our offensive line looked really, really good. I’m really pleased with the way they executed. I thought both quarterbacks did very good. I thought the second half of the scrimmage our defense really responded. They made some good plays. I think we took a lot of positives out of it, and we had a lot of great teaching moments out of it.”

Quarterback battle: JMU juniors Bryan Schor and Connor Mitch are battling for the starting quarterback spot, and Houston said that he’s not sure when he’ll be ready to name a starter.

Schor took over the starting role last year when Vad Lee, a 2016 JMU graduate, suffered a season-ending injury. Mitch transferred from the University of South Carolina in early July. Mitch was the starting quarterback at South Carolina last year for the first two games, but a shoulder injury ended his season with the Gamecocks.

Schor had a leg up in the competition, due to having played last year and getting used to the new coaching staff in the spring. However, Houston said that Mitch is hitting his stride and making it a very close battle.

“The thing is Connor’s coming on pretty strong,” Houston said. “It took him a while to get going just because of the newness to everything around here. He’s coming on very, very strong and I don’t know if we’re ready to make a decision yet.”

Houston said both players get along really well and have handled the situation well.

“I think both of them have been very business-like with it,” Houston said. “They’re friends, they’ve developed a friendship off the field, but they’ve been very business-like on the field. They go out there and they do their job. I think that’s a big credit to the way Connor’s handled himself too. Bryan is fantastic, and I think Connor has come in here and he’s handled himself very well.”

Final stretch: The Dukes open the season at home against Morehead State at 6 p.m. on Sept. 3.

The players will begin getting into a normal game-week routine next week. That includes going to classes, which start Monday.

Houston said that there’s a few things he’s looking for from his team during this final week of preparation.

“I’m looking for fewer mistakes and better consistency defensively,” Houston said. “And I think just getting a consistent timing on offense where we’re just in a good mode. Play after play, after play, after play, positive yardage, executing at a high level, good energy, matriculating down the field.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or

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