Dukes Arrive, Ready to Face Heat of Camp

By: Damon Dillman Email
By: Damon Dillman Email

Sunday's physicals and meetings for the James Madison football team were held comfortably indoors.

Players and coaches won't be as fortunate during Monday's first day of preseason practice, when the temperature is expected to reach 95 degrees.

"We know Coach Matthews controls the weather around here, and of course it's going to be the hottest day of the year when camp starts," senior Mike Caussin said Sunday. "That's just how he does it, and we're used to it."

"I'm pretty sure a lot of the big guys will be cramping up," senior Scotty McGee said with a laugh. "I may even be cramping up. Let me watch what I say."

"Like everyone else in Harrisonburg, we've been living in Alaska all summer. And all of a sudden we've moved to South America today," said head coach Mickey Matthews, who added the team may move practices later in the week to the morning to escape the heat.

The Dukes are coming off a 10-1 regular season, and the first CAA football championship in school history. They open the 2009 season at Maryland September 12.

Eleven starters return, but quarterback Rodney Landers is not among them. Junior Drew Dudzik and redshirt freshman Justin Thorpe will compete in camp to be Landers' replacement.

"I'm asked about the quarterback situation everyday, whether I'm on the golf course or in the supermarket," Matthews said.

Matthews also said Sunday that junior Griff Yancey will probably open camp at free safety. As a running back, Yancey was second on the team in touchdowns a season ago, but he moved to defense late in spring practice.

McGee, who missed most of the team's summer workouts because of surgery on his foot, will be back at full speed for the start of camp.

"It's been a long summer," said McGee, who was recently named a preseason All-American kick returner by the Sports Network. "I'm about ready to get at it."

McGee says much of his motivation comes from how JMU's 2008 season ended, with a 35-27 loss at home to Montana in the FCS Semifinals.

"It left a bitter taste in my mouth," he said, "and I'm pretty sure it's the same way for the rest of my teammates."

"Since the day after the game we've been ready," said Caussin. "This is probably one of the best winter workouts we've had since I've been here. This is my fifth year here. One of the best spring balls we've had."

"Last year is last year," said Matthews. "Whether we'd have won the thing or whatever, that's the great thing about college football. You get a new group of youngsters, and we'll have to see what the chemistry is like on this football team. We'll have to see how the new players fit in."

"We've got 30 days of training before we open up with Maryland," said McGee, "and it's just a matter of taking care of business and doing all the little things right."

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