With just under 10 weeks until the start of JMU football’s 2018 campaign, I’ll begin my weekly countdown until the start of the season. This week, I’ll look at the 10 best players on the Dukes’ roster.
10. Wayne Davis – The Ohio State transfer and former Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year hasn’t played a snap as a Duke, but his talent is undeniable. When the end of the season rolls around, I expect Davis to be one of JMU’s 10 best and I think he begins the year at No. 10.
9. Trai Sharp – Nobody is going to confuse Trai Sharp for Adrian Peterson, but the senior running back is as tough as they come. His toughness as a runner combined with his agility in close corners makes him one of JMU’s 10 best players.
8. Marcus Marshall – While his 2017 campaign wasn’t perfect, Marshall showed flashes of big play ability. He tallied 850 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017. The only issue headed into 2018 comes in the form of an extremely crowded backfield. With offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick able to ride the hot hand, Marshall’s production may suffer, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t one of JMU’s 10 best players.
7. John Daka – The speedy and athletic defensive end has one sack through two seasons as a Duke. I think Daka has the physical tools, experience in Bob Trott’s system and finally space on the roster to be an impact player off the edge. While it might seem like a lofty goal, I believe 10 sacks are firmly within Daka’s reach in 2018.
6. Riley Stapleton – Despite an unbelievable 2017 postseason, Stapleton is still relatively unproven. If he put together a consistent regular season last year, he’d make a serious case for being No. 1 on this list. Regardless, he has the physical tools to be JMU’s best receivver and the best receiver in the FCS. He may very well end the year as JMU’s best player.
5. Ron’Dell Carter – Redshirt junior Ron’Dell Carter tallied eight tackles for loss last season, including four sacks. He’s an elite physical talent at 270 lbs and has the experience to back it up. Carter anchors the defensive line and possesses the quickness to play multiple positions on the line if needed. He’s one of the best Dukes coming into 2018.
4. Jimmy Moreland – He’s skinny, he’s cocky, he’s Jimmy “Effin” Moreland. Despite being relatively small, Moreland’s competitive nature and speed make him one of the most impactful players in the FCS both offensively and defensively.
3. Cardon Johnson – “The Shining,” a girl telling you “we need to talk” and Cardon Johnson barreling toward you at full speed. These are the three scariest things in the world. If he’s healthy, which at times can be a big if, Johnson is the most impactful player on the roster. With the injury risk playing a factor, I have Johnson at No. 3.
2. Darrious Carter – Pairing Carter and Daka at defensive end is a potentially lethal combination on third-and-long. It’s easy to argue that Carter is JMU’s best returning player. With 14 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks last season, Carter combines elite athleticism with a tremendous understanding of Trott’s scheme. He’s a beast and could be the most talented player on one of the best defensive lines in the country. I have him a close second on my list.
1. Rashad Robinson – He’s as consistent as they come. An interception machine, Robinson also possesses the size to be impactful in press coverage and make tackles in the running game. He’s a lockdown FCS corner. With his consistency and playmaking ability, I’ve got Robinson as JMU’s best player.
Honorable Mentions: Mac Patrick, Dimitri Holloway, Bryce Maginley, Jawon Hamilton and Harry O’Kelly.