JMU has good dilemma with Mitch, Schor

James Madison University's Connor Mitch throws a pass during practice this summer. The transfer from the University of South Carolina is battling with Bryan Schor for the starting quarterback spot. Courtesy photo/JMU Athletics Communications

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University’s football team has a good problem to have. The Dukes have two quarterbacks, both of whom are capable of leading the team this season.

With a little over a week left before the Dukes’ first game, redshirt junior Connor Mitch and junior Bryan Schor are still battling it out to decide who will be the starter for the season opener. The Dukes host Morehead State University at 6 p.m. Sept. 3.

“We got a great competition going on right now at quarterback,” JMU offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick said. “You’re always one snap away from the other guy having to play anyway. So I feel much better when I know I got two guys that we’re like starters.”

Mitch and Schor have had different experiences the last two years. Schor originally committed to Miami University in Ohio, but didn’t play there and then transferred to Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania in the spring of 2014.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Schor was recruited by then JMU coach Everett Withers and transferred to JMU that fall.

James Madision University's Bryan Schor attempts to make a pass against William & Mary last season. Courtesy photo/JMU Athletics Communications

He was the back-up to Vad Lee his freshman and sophomore years. Last year Lee suffered a season-ending injury and Schor was thrust into the starting role. He started the last four games, including in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

Schor said that his experience last season, which included having to replace Lee late in a close loss to the University of Richmond, will benefit him this season.

“I really think it’s going to help me a lot in the future just to have those games under my belt going into the season,” Schor said. “That’s what I’m really excited about to know that I’ve been there before. So I’m not going to have the nerves that I had going into my first game last year.”

Schor threw for 847 yards and seven touchdowns last season with only one interception. He also ran for 276 yards on 78 carries and four touchdowns.

In January Mike Houston took over for Withers, who left to become the head coach at Texas State University. Houston hired Kirkpatrick as offensive coordinator and Schor said he feels good about the new coaching staff.

Kirkpatrick said that Schor has adjusted well in the off season.

“Bryan Schor has come back after going through the spring trying to learn the system,” Kirkpatrick said. “He’s really come back focused, come back a little more physically capable. He’s gained some weight, some strength. Our strength coach did a great job with him this summer. He really knows what’s going on.”

Mitch transferred last month from the University of South Carolina, where he’s spent the past three years. Mitch started the first two games of the season last year before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He threw for 165 yards and a touchdown and ran for 51 yards and a touchdown last year for the Gamecocks. In the season opener, he helped lead South Carolina past the University of North Carolina, who the Dukes play this year in the third game of the season.

Mitch has a connection to both Houston and Kirkpatrick, which he said helped lead him to JMU. Mitch’s brother, Ryan, was a graduate assistant at Lenoir-Rhyne College under Houston. Mitch was also recruited out of high school by Kirkpatrick, who at the time was an assistant coach at East Carolina University.

The 6-foot-3 205-pound Mitch said that he’s happy with his decision to come to JMU and he’s feeling more and more comfortable with the offense.

“It’s been awesome,” Mitch said. “It’s been great to kind of get to know the guys a little bit more and learn the offense. … The first week (of practice) I was still learning. Now I have a way better grasp of the system. So everything is progressing each and every day.”

Kirkpatrick said that, like Schor, Mitch has a lot of great qualities that make him a solid quarterback.

“He has big-time ability,” Kirkpatrick said. “He can really run as well. He has great size, has great timing on his routes and stuff like that. And he has some experience in that he’s played in a big level of football — been in some big time games.”

Houston said that both quarterbacks have been through some tough situations on the field, which shows that they can handle the pressure of being the starting quarterback.

“At the end of the day neither one of them are going to get rattled. They’re both vets when it comes to having pressure on them,” Houston said. “I think both of them have been in situations to where whoever wins that job you’re not going to see them blink. The stage Sept. 3 is certainly not going to be too big for them.”

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