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February 7, 2009

JMU's class full of stars

HARRISONBURG - To find gold, prospectors went west. To uncover recruiting gems, James Madison's coaches headed north this year.

JMU football coach Mickey Matthews announced the addition of 18 recruits Wednesday - including five who received at least two stars from Rivals.com.

As for the more northerly tinge, seven were from Northern Virginia, two from Maryland and two from New Jersey.

"It's hard to get guys to come north to school," Matthews, a native Texan, said Wednesday at a press conference to announce the signings. "As I like to tell everyone, the only thing southern about James Madison is my accent. Very few people from North Carolina and Georgia come to school at JMU. You walk around the campus, you see lots of license plates from Maryland and New Jersey and Connecticut."

The Dukes' northern haul includes probably the two most vaunted newcomers, according to Matthews.

Defensive end Jordan Stanton (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) of Robinson High School in Fairfax passed on offers from a pair of Atlantic Coast Conference schools - Boston College and Maryland - to play for JMU. Defensive end Sean O'Neil (6-4, 230) of River Dell High School in Oradell, N.J., turned down an offer from Akron, as well as most of the northern schools in the Colonial Athletic Association, to join the Dukes.

"I'd sign those two guys at Georgia," Matthews, a former University of Georgia assistant, said. "You watch tape, they can do it all. They're going to get a lot bigger. They can run. They have excellent flexibility in their hips. I'd sign 10 just like those two every year."

Matthews said his desire to add more players from New Jersey was the driving force behind hiring defensive backs coach Mark Hendricks before last season. Hendricks is a Deptford, N.J., native and coached at Division III Rowan in the Garden State.

"The high school football is excellent up there," Matthews said. "We searched for a guy that could recruit New Jersey and signed Mark Hendricks."

Hendricks, in turn, helped JMU land O'Neil and wide receiver and defensive back Leavander Jones, a 5-10, 165-pound prospect from Pleasantville, N.J., who originally committed to Syracuse.

Matthews said this year's recruiting effort focused on finding help for a now-depleted JMU secondary. Madison signed three potential defensive backs: Jones, Frederick, Md.'s Jakarie Jackson (5-11, 175) and San Mateo Community College's Richard Wilson (6-2, 195), who has two years of eligibility.

JMU also added Marshall transfer Ryan Smith, who is already enrolled at the school this semester and will take part in spring practice, as will defensive end Nick Emmons, a transfer from Army.

Among the other highlights of the class were two recruits rated as three-star prospects (on a scale of zero to five) by the recruiting Web site Rivals.com and three who are listed as two-stars.

Glen Allen High linebacker Adrian Cavanaugh (6-0, 215) and Fork Union tight end Jonathan Sharp (6-3, 225) are the three-star players. Jones, Stanton and Catonsville, Md., wide receiver Renard Robinson (6-0, 185) ranked as two stars.

Matthews said JMU likes to add a quarterback every year and did so this year with Murrieta, Calif.'s Kavon Seaton (5-11, 190), who played the past year at Navy Prep in Rhode Island.

Matthews also said the Dukes will annually pursue the top prospect in the Shenandoah Valley, which he said they accomplished in signing R.E. Lee High School quarterback Dae'Quan Scott.

"As we evaluated the Valley this year, we thought he was not only the best player, he also was the best college prospect," Matthews said of the 5-9, 170-pound Scott, who initially committed to Richmond before switching. "So we recruited him very hard and we're lucky to get him."

Madison's Northern Virginia recruits were Stanton, Ashburn running back Daniel Allen (5-10, 170), Centreville running back Jordan Anderson (5-11, 200), Ashburn wide receiver Arlandis Harvey (6-0, 180), McLean offensive lineman Scott Jones (6-4, 260), Fredericksburg offensive lineman Matt Krout (6-5, 265) and Kingstown linebacker Stephon Robertson (5-11, 200).

JMU also signed McLeansville, N.C., kicker Will Gann (5-10, 160), and Roanoke linebacker Tyler Snow (6-3, 225).

Matthews said he has the equivalent of about two scholarships left and expects a high school senior safety to visit JMU early next week. He also is looking for a I-A transfer safety or wide receiver, if one turns up.

Division I-A Marshall and Mid-American Conference schools, Matthews said, were I-AA JMU's biggest recruiting rivals this year, even more so than the CAA foes and Appalachian State.

NOTES: Matthews said linebacker Jamie Veney (shoulder) and safety Pat Williams (sports hernia) are both likely to miss spring practice after offseason surgeries.

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