With a new West Virginia football season on the way, a new era of Mountaineer football comes with it as new WVU head coach Neal Brown is looking to rally his troops past James Madison on Saturday afternoon.
Brown comes off the heels of three straight 10-win seasons at Troy University, where he compiled an overall 35-16 record with three straight bowl game appearances in the past three years.
West Virginia and James Madison will square off for the third time ever. The Mountaineers have taken both previous matchups, including a 2004 tilt in Morgantown where the Mountaineers came out on top 45-10.
“JMU has a proud football tradition, I know the program well from my time with the old Atlantic 10, preseason poll… they’re either first or second in the FCS,” Brown said on JMU’s rich tradition.
With the announcement of the first depth chart of the year coming earlier this week, positions on both sides of the ball are much clearer heading into West Virginia’s opening weekend.
One of the biggest question marks over the offseason following the loss of Will Grier to the NFL was the quarterback position. Graduate transfer Austin Kendall received the nod from Brown with redshirt junior Jack Allison and redshirt freshman Trey Lowe rounding out the quarterback position.
Another offensive key player that will look to shine as a part of a young Mountaineer offense includes running back Kennedy McKoy, who will likely handle the bulk of snaps. Wide receivers Tevin Bush and Sam James are also supposed to catch most of Kendall’s passes as members of the starting wide receiver unit.
“You want them to play fast,” Brown said. “You’re going to find some things that don’t go the way they want them to be.”
The defense will be highlighted by senior Reese Donahue and sophomore Dante Stills on the defensive line with redshirt junior Sean Mahone and seniors Josh Norwood and Keith Washington Jr. manning West Virginia’s secondary.
On the flip side, JMU returns many members of its 2018 team that look to play an impact.
“They’re probably more experienced than any team I’ve lined up against,” Brown said about JMU. “It all starts at quarterback with the Pitt transfer (Ben DiNucci), I like him a lot on film.”
DiNucci looks to add another stellar season under his belt after throwing for 2,275 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. The Dukes will also come into this season with a few running backs who are all capable of making explosive plays on the ground.
The Dukes were also picked to win the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) football title this season after receiving 20 of 24 first place votes. They finished 9-4 last season with a record fourth straight appearance in the FCS playoffs.