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CFF Targets - This JMU WR is on VOLUME PIG watch for 2023
April brings spring clarity to CFB depth charts; it sounds like a name is emerging in the JMU WR hierarchy
The wise CFF manager is always looking to capitalize on his opponent’s ignorance. Unfortunately, in the world of quirky-named farm-animal newsletters — which are gaining popularity at a torrid rate, this is becoming harder and harder.
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War (2023 edition)
In February, I did a full team profile of the James Madison Dukes’ CFF assets for the 2023 season. With so much turnover at every position, this is an exciting program for CFF managers to evaluate. The opportunities for fresh faces to emerge as volume pigs are plenty. And, since they are largely unknown commodities, the price to acquire said players is low.
What’s even more intriguing is the fact that the Dukes brought in several transfers at WR. As it happens, I also did a profile in February of WR Elijah Sarratt. At that time, there was not much clarity on who would be stepping up for the Dukes in 2023. With spring camp now underway, a name has emerged as the potential alpha in the room — and it is one of the few key-contributors returning from the 2022 season.
WR Reggie Brown was the #2 receiver last year for the Dukes finishing the season with 24 receptions (44 targets) for 401 yards and 4 TDs in 8 games (averaging 5.5 targets per game). He now has a chance to see a major increase in volume in 2023, and, lucky for us, he inherits a system that is ready-made to produce CFF studs.
Coaching & System
In case you missed the February breakdown, the system in place at JMU is very WR-friendly.
Under OC Mike Shanahan (not the same one that used to coach in the NFL), this offence set single-season JMU passing records in yardage (3868) and passing TDs (43) in 2022, and has seen three 1000-yard receivers in the last two seasons.
Since HC Curt Cignetti has been at JMU (2019 - present), there have been four 1000-yard WRs in the last three full seasons (excluding COVID year).
The stats of the JMU WR1 of the last three full seasons (1-ppr):
2022 - Kris Thornton: 59 (95 targets) - 1015 - 7 (18.8 FPG)
*2021 - Antwane Wells Jr: 83 (NA) - 1250 - 15 (26.54 FPG)
*2019 - Brandon Polk: 73 (NA) - 1159 - 11 (15.93 FPG)
Note that in 2019 the Dukes played in 16 games, in case you’re trying to figure out the math behind the disparity between Polk’s FPG vs. Wells’. Antwane only played in 11 games in 2021.
For a more detailed breakdown on the coaching staff and system, check out the previous article here.
WR Reggie Brown looks poised to fill in coveted JMU WR1 role
An article that caught my eye the other day gave a recent spring update on JMU’s WR room. The headline, in particular, made me pause to take a look:
Shoutout to Noah, who, as of this publishing date, has not replied to my DM requesting additional intel. We’ll just assume he’s busy (yea, I’m sure that’s it VP…).
In it, he explains that the torch of leadership previously held by WRs Thornton and Ravenel has now been passed onto Brown. And it sounds like he is embracing the challenge:
It is a different approach . . . I got to be more vocal, I got to be more of a leader now because [Kris Thornton and Devin Ravenel] are gone. Those boys were the leaders last year, so I gotta step up and lead these boys.
Having owned shares of Brown last season, I got the chance to watch some of the Dukes’ games. I really liked Brown when he was healthy, but was disappointed how often the staff would take him off the field. With the Dukes bringing in three transfers at the position, it left me wondering if they had confidence in their returning WR.
It sounds like some of those transfers have already established themselves as starters, too; but it seems like Brown is still the leader in the room:
Some of them started off with the ones, so everything’s happening quick, way faster,
So I gotta get them boys right, so we can all be doing the right thing
When asked about Brown’s role for the 2023 season, Cignetti had this to say:
All he’s got to do is keep improving every day . . . And not be anything other than what he is. As long as he’s out there game in, game out; play in, play out, he’ll have his opportunities.
One of the JMU media must have asked Brown if he was feeling the pressure of being ‘the guy’ at JMU for next season, because the article quotes this response:
I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge, but it’s something I’ve always thought about — being the man . . . I feel like I’m ready for it.
It shouldn’t be that surprising that Brown is in this position, as he is the leading returner at WR. The transfers, in particular, will not have had enough time to familiarize themselves with the offence to usurp him. I am not ready to make any declarations at this point. But Brown is now the one I am most focused on headed into the summer.
QB play: in addition to whether or not Brown holds down the WR1 role, we also don’t know if any of the QB options are any good. Obviously, bad QB play would be a problem for the CFF stock of JMU’s WRs. Though, we’ve seen WRs overcome it before in CFF. That being said, I trust Cignetti will figure it out at QB. The track record at JMU in recent years pretty much speaks for itself.
Brown might be WR1 by leadership and seniority but not actually WR1 in terms of production. I’ve seen something like this before. I’ll never forget it, actually — it was Kevin Marks in the 2021 offseason with the Buffalo Bulls. An extremely productive run offence, the Bulls were ushering in a new era with a new staff. During the offseason, numerous reports emphasized Marks' leadership role and his ability to step up as "the guy" now that Patterson was no longer on the team. The coaching staff even planned to involve him in the passing game. However, despite being listed as RB1 on the pre-game depth charts, Marks was outperformed by younger players throughout the season, and he eventually became unrosterable in CFF.
The Dukes might not actually have a definitive leader in receiving stats this season with all the transfers they brought in — who I imagine expect to play this season. This would be CFF managers’ nightmare scenario. I still like Sarratt a lot, who I highlighted in February, and Dollison still intrigues me. I want to know which of these players is playing in the slot, primarily, before jumping in on one player specifically.
Fun fact: The city of Harrisonburg, VA, where JMU is located, was named after Thomas Harrison, who settled in the area in the 1730s and was a delegate to the Virginia Convention that declared independence from Great Britain in 1776.
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