What does the JMU Football offense need in the transfer portal? – JMU Sports News

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

Few television commercials grab my attention like the Dr. Pepper ‘Fansville’. A particular favorite of mine is a recent 30-second ad for a transfer portal that features fans going berserk as their favorite players are sucked into a real portal.

An upset fan tries to save his team’s starting quarterback from going into the portal, only to let him go when he realizes he’ll have to leave his Dr. Pepper to save the QB.

“Quarterbacks are replaceable,” says another fan.

JMU fans know this all too well. The transfer portal gives and the transfer portal takes.

For the Dukes, the portal has taken away star players in the last few weeks. Goodbye, Mikail Kamara, James Carpenter, Jaylin Walker, Aidan Fisher, Zach Horton and other notables.

Hello… well, we’re still not quite sure who’s coming to Harrisonburg.

The Dukes are in the early stages of their portal-adding phase, having only added a trio of rookies. Expect that number to grow dramatically in the coming weeks as players attend JMU and commit before the school’s spring academic semester begins. Our transfer tracking portal can be found here and we also track players offered by JMU here.

Let’s evaluate the needs of the transfer portal position by position for the JMU football offense, where we expect some big additions in the next 2-3 weeks.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Three Notch’d Brewing for their advertising support.

Quarterback: High

Whether it’s the return of Jordan McCloud or another Duke transfer, the Dukes need help at quarterback. JMU has significant returning talent in the 2024 class, but it’s unproven. Alonza Barnett won the starting job over McCloud to start the 2023 season, but was quickly benched in favor of the veteran.

Billy Atkins and Barnett combined to start two games during their JMU careers. They are 16-44 passing for 179 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions in those games. Brett Griffis never started a game in his college career.

Could one of these three players be JMU’s starting quarterback in 2024? Of course, anything is possible! But we’d be surprised if Chesney turns the offense over to one of those three without them beating out an incoming transfer (or McCloud) for the job.

Keep an eye on the Holy Cross” Matthew Sluka and Albany Reese Poffenbarger as possible additions through the portal if McCloud leaves. Sluka has one year of eligibility, while Poffenbarger has two. Sluka is an elite quarterback, while Poffenbarger is a prolific passer with decent athleticism.

Running back: Very high

With Kaelon Black and Ty Son Lawton leaving for Indiana, we’d expect JMU to prioritize running backs in the transfer portal. Returners Sammy Malignaggi and Ke’Marion Baldwin will likely have a chance to earn snaps, but they are largely unproven at the collegiate level.

Expect at least one addition to running back room through the transfer portal, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see JMU add two or more players at the position.

Boston College Patrick Garvo is one name to watch. He rushed for 1,912 yards and 11 touchdowns in five seasons with the ACC program. He has not announced an offer from the Dukes, but is followed on social media by JMU coaches and has two other offers from the group of five. He is a realistic addition if the Dukes decide to offer him. Once JMU’s running backs coach arrives on the scene, we’d expect the offers for that group of positions to start flowing.

Wide receiver: Moderate

Assuming Elijah Sarat doesn’t return to JMU, this is a position of need. It’s not as big of a need as running back or quarterback, though.

Returners Taji Hudson, Yamir Knight, Maxwell Moss and Omarion Dollison have the athletic ability to be impact players in the Sun Belt. Dollison, a transfer from South Florida, has lightning speed and may not have been used enough in 2023. Other guys, like Jaden Mines and Troy Lewis, have impressed in practice but have yet to make a huge impact on Saturdays in the fall.

JMU recently offered a scholarship to Chattanooga’s Jamoy Mayeswho recorded over 1,000 receiving yards in 2023. Could he be the next transfer wide receiver to make a huge impact for JMU?

The Dukes have also offered several other receivers, including Emporia State Jaylen Varnerof Idaho Therese Trainorand the army Isaiah Alston.

Offensive Line: Moderate

Losing Tyler Stevens, Carter Miller and Nick Kidwell to transfer is a tough pill to swallow, but Duke still has significant talent on the line.

Center Tanner Morris is expected to return, and starting left tackle Tyshon Wyatt has pulled his name from the portal, meaning he is returning to JMU. Right guard Cole Potts also plans to return. Guys like Josh Toner, Carter Swayze and Ronald Altman are among the respectable returnees with experience. There are enough guys on the roster right now to form a good starting unit and have depth.

Plus, the Dukes have already added a pair of linemen through the portal, most notably Holy Cross’ Patrick McMurtry. The Dukes could easily add a few more players through the portal, but this position group should be the strength of the program in 2024. We’ll look for at least one more potential starter to join the Dukes to increase internal competition at the position.

Holy Cross’ Eric Shawn and Lafayette Mike Barr are names to watch.

Tight end: Low

Zach Horton left for Indiana, but the returning Kai Wright and Taylor Thompson are capable blockers and receivers. Thompson didn’t get a chance to showcase his receiving ability in the JMU 2023 offense, but he could help fill a need in the passing game with the departure of the team’s top three wide receivers.

Adding an experienced tight end to compete alongside those two makes sense, but it’s not the primary offseason priority.

The Dukes recently offered Murray State Cole Rask, who led his team in receiving in 2023 with 507 yards and six touchdowns. He is 6’6” and 250 lbs and has received offers from multiple Power Five programs.

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