Photo by Gerald Castillo
TXST Countdown to Kickoff: ‘Cats face SBC newcomer JMU
After spending years as one of the top teams in the FCS, James Madison will make the leap to the FBS in 2022. Texas State will meet the Sun Belt newcomer in its first game of conference play.
The Bobcats have never faced JMU, but the teams’ stories are intertwined — Texas State hired former Dukes head coach Everett Withers in 2016, who’d gone 18-7 during his two years at JMU. Now, more than three years since Withers was removed from the maroon and gold’s program, the two teams will finally meet.
JMU is now led by head coach Curt Cignetti, who took the team to the FCS championship game in 2019 and two trips to the national semifinals in the years since, going 33-5 over the past three seasons. Now, the program looks to sustain its success in the NCAA’s top subdivision.
The Dukes are set to return 58% of their production from 2021, per ESPN’s Bill Connelly — of their 13 All-CAA selections from 2021, just four will be back in 2022.
They’ll still have size in the trenches, as Connelly points out that their three returning starters on the offensive line average 6-foot-4, 318 pounds, the unit anchored by All-CAA First Team member Nick Kidwell. Leading rusher Latrele Palmers is back after 187 carries for 941 yards and three touchdowns.
Cignetti brought in Colorado State transfer quarterback Todd Centeio, who completed 229-380 passes for 2,958 yards and 15 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Centeio will have two of the team’s top three pass-catchers from last year to throw to as well in redshirt senior wideout Kris Thornton and redshirt junior receiving back Solomon Vanhorse, who combined to reel in 116 passes for 1,435 yards and 18 scores.
More transfers will need to immediately step in on defense. The secondary will be full of new faces with Boston College defensive backs Deon Jones and Kobay White and Arkansas State cornerback Jarius Reimonenq. JMU will still have redshirt senior Isaac Ukwu, who was voted to the All-CAA Second Team, on the defensive line after he posted 44 tackles, 16.5 TFLs and nine sacks. The team also retains redshirt junior Chris Chukwuneke and redshirt senior Sam Kidd, who racked up 60 tackles each.
Connelly’s SP+ projections predict the Dukes to win 5.8 games on average — though, the team only has 11 games scheduled and is not eligible to play in a bowl in its first FBS season. SP+ also ranked the team No. 90 in FBS, ahead of Texas State at No. 123. James Madison will host the Bobcats in their first-ever meeting in Harrisonburg, Va., on Oct. 1.