When it comes to the kicking game, Mickey Matthews is gambling on talent over experience.
James Madison's head coach said Wednesday that redshirt freshman Ben Hopewell, a graduate of nearby Wilson Memorial High School, would handle the place-kicking duties in Saturday's season opener against Morehead State. Redshirt sophomore David Skahn will be the Dukes' punter.
"We charted about four or five hundred kicks, last spring and this fall. And then you just let your eyes talk to you, and you let your gut instinct talk to you," Matthews said.
"We feel like Ben won the job fair and square, and David won the job fair and square, and they're going to get the first opportunity," he added. "They're not as experienced as you'd like, but we feel very confident that we made the right decision."
Hopewell redshirted last season, after joining the Dukes as a preferred walk-on. So his college debut will come in front of a sold-out crowd at the newly-renovated Bridgeforth Stadium.
"I know the crowd is very loud, but they're all behind me 100 percent," he said. "I just want to prove myself out there."
Skahn appeared in five games last season as the Dukes' kickoff specialist. He'll split that role with former West Virginia transfer Cameron Starke this fall.
"I just come out everyday, work as hard as I can. Try to improve on the little things. They add up," said Skahn. "I can't wait. It's going to be fun."
Dixon Wright and Matt Goff, the Dukes' kicker and punter in 2009, are both back with the team this season. Matthews said earlier this week that Wright could miss Saturday's game because of a quad injury.
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