With National Signing Day officially in the books, JMU football has added five recruits to the list of eight early signees for the incoming class of 2019. Despite working on a crunch schedule after being hired just five days before the early signing period, head coach Curt Cignetti both maintained a majority of commits from the previous regime and added a few new prospects.
“Really excited about this class, our first class,” Cignetti said. “I’d like to start off by thanking our staff: Our assistant coaches, who did a great job, our players, who did a tremendous job at representing our program during the recruiting weekends and everyone involved in the JMU community.”
Eight recruits — tight end Hunter Bullock, cornerback Dorian Davis, running backs Austin Douglas and CJ Jackson, defensive lineman Sean Johns, linebacker Taurus Jones, offensive lineman Tanner Morris and safety Jordan White — signed back in December. Five — linebacker Julio Ayamel, wide receiver Kevin Curry Jr., defensive linemen Jalen Green and Carlo Jones and running back Latrele Palmer — signed in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Cignetti’s main responsibility after being hired early in the offseason was retaining the previous regime’s recruits. After hitting the ground running, all but a few high school athletes were still on board.
“We had pre-existing relationships with a lot of these players, we had recruited them [at Elon] last spring, in the fall and when there was a change here,” Cignetti said. “We were very active in the recruiting process with a lot of them and I think those relationships really benefited us.”
In terms of positional need, Cignetti brought in three defensive linemen and running backs each. While both positions are a huge need for his coaching philosophy of winning through running the ball and defending the run, he also noted the recent and future losses of the team.
JMU graduated three running backs after the 2018 season in Cardon Johnson, Trai Sharp and Marcus Marshall. At the end of next season, the Dukes are expected to lose defensive linemen Ron’Dell Carter, Paris Black, Matt Terrell and John Daka to graduation. Bringing those individuals in now has a chance to get these younger guys learning from the bundle of seasoned vets.
“We needed to bring in some people that could not only compete this fall, but also be ready to step in in the future,” Cignetti said. “We’re excited about that group and their potential to make an impact.”
While the Dukes added athletes from six different states, a majority of their prospects came from Virginia (four), Maryland (four) and North Carolina (two). Three recruits from Maryland — Ayamel, Green and Palmer — all come from Our Lady of Good Counsel high school and will have the chance to continue their careers together in Harrisonburg. Good Counsel, a member of the well-respected Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, has several ties with some of the new assistant coaches and could be viewed as a prospect hive for James Madison football.
“That league they play in up there is like the SEC of high school football,” Cignetti said. “Good Counsel has a good reputation, all three of those guys are quality players. I think they all have the potential to make an impact next fall and hopefully that’s a pipeline, not only in that school but in that conference.”
Just as it was important to bring in talented athletes, Cignetti was focused on bringing in well-rounded individuals. Almost all his signees were honor roll students or scholar athletes, while some participated in organizations such as National Honors Society.
Most recruits will have to wait it out until this summer before beginning summer classes and practices, but two have gotten an early start on their collegiate career. Both Davis and Bullock have already begun schooling as mid-year enrollees at the university, and have so far received positive feedback in both the classroom and the weight room.
“We think all these guys are top-notch guys,” Cignetti said. “There’s a lot of intangible things that go into development to your fullest potential … When we’re recruiting people, I want to look at that transcript. I want to see what he did in ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th grade. I want to see those absences … because I think those are telling signs in terms of what you’re getting and the habits that that prospect may have.”
Now with the coaching staff in place and the recruiting class of 2019 on board, JMU will work in the gym until spring ball begins March 14, less than a month before its annual spring football game on April 13. It’ll be the first public look at this new regime, with an opportunity to see some of its newest recruits in the purple and gold, too.
Contact Blake Pace at email@example.com. For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.