JMU football notebook: Strasburg grad Kloosterman off to strong start for Dukes

JMU's Jonathan Kloosterman makes a move around a defender on Saturday against Central Connecticut State University. The Strasburg graduate is second on the team with five receptions this season, all of which resulted in first downs. Courtesy photo/JMU Athletics Communications

HARRISONBURG – James Madison University junior tight end Jonathan Kloosterman is making the most of his first year starting for the Dukes.

In JMU’s first two games the Strasburg graduate has five catches (second most on the team) for 63 yards. On top of that all five of Kloosterman’s receptions resulted in first downs for JMU.

JMU coach Mike Houston said Kloosterman’s versatility is key for the Dukes.

“I made the statement back in the spring, and I made the statement in the preseason camp that I thought that Kloo was the total package as a tight end,” Houston said. “He’s a great blocker. He has very steady hands. He’s a load once he catches it. I’ve always wanted to have a tight end that was like that – that can do everything, and I think he is certainly that, and it comes from a tremendous work ethic.

“He came here as a walk-on, earned a scholarship and now he’s earned a starting spot. He and (senior tight end Dan) Schiele are a good one-two tandem punch there at tight end.”

JMU quarterback Bryan Schor said that Kloosterman’s 6-foot-3 frame helps him a lot on the field. Schor said he knows if his pass isn’t perfect that Kloosterman can still come up with the catch.

Central Connecticut State coach Pete Rossomando said that he was impressed with Kloosterman, especially as a blocker.

“I thought (Kloosterman) was the X-factor in the game from a blocking standpoint,” Rossomando said after Saturday’s 56-21 JMU victory. “He just does a great job. He never quits. He’s a good football player. I bet you he’s an All-CAA guy by the end of the year.”

Friendly rivalry: JMU running backs Khalid Abdullah and Cardon Johnson are both from Newport News and have been friends for a long time. So it’s no surprise that they have a healthy rivalry with each other on the field.

“That’s my boy,” Abdullah said of Johnson. “We go back since 5 years old. We started running track and playing football together. So all the way ’til now we’ve been good friends and also competitors because we went to different high schools and we competed there. We compete here since we both need to get the ball.”

Abdullah was one of the few backs that did not get 100 yards in JMU’s first game of the season, while Johnson did. Abdullah said he heard about it from his teammates after the game.

In last week’s victory over Central Connecticut State, Abdullah notched his first 100-yard game of the season, finishing with 113 yards on 19 carries. He also went over 2,000 yards for his career.

Johnson had 121 yards rushing on 16 carries. For the season, Johnson has 225 yards and Abdullah has 156 yards.

“We are both good backs, in my opinion,” Abdullah said. “We just try to do what we can do out there. But that’s my bro. I wish the best for him every time I go out there. There’s never any love lost if he has a better game than me, or I have a better game than him. I think we just push each other.”

Stepping up in competition: JMU plays at the University of North Carolina at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Dukes defeated their last Football Bowl Subdivision opponent, beating Southern Methodist University, 48-45 last year. However, the Tar Heels (1-1) will pose an even bigger challenge. UNC started the season ranked in the AP Top 25, before losing to the University of Georgia.

Houston is no stranger to coaching against Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Last year when he was the head coach at The Citadel they knocked off the University of South Carolina, 23-22.

Houston said the key is for the Dukes to approach this game just like any other game.

“The thing I’ve talked to the kids all week about is, it’s no different than any other game we’re going to play all year,” Houston said. “And really for me and for the players that I’ve had in the past and hopefully this team too, they really almost don’t notice everything around them. If they have that approach to not get caught up in the stage then it just comes down to doing the same things we do every day.”

JMU announced last week that the Dukes will play at East Carolina University next year, at North Carolina State University in 2018 and at West Virginia University in 2019.

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