New Faces, No Problem: Matthews Confident with Offensive Line

By: Damon Dillman Email
By: Damon Dillman Email

Three of the five starters from James Madison's offensive line last season are gone.

But despite that turnover, Mickey Matthews says he expects the line to be better that last year, when JMU led the CAA in rushing offense and finished second in total offense.

Depth is Matthews' primary concern at offensive line. He says the Dukes don't have a sixth lineman they can count on to replace one of the five expected starters.

The two returnees are junior Theo Sherman at left tackle, and senior left guard Dorian Brooks.

Senior Donnie Smith is expected to replace All-American center Scott Lemn, while junior Brandon Monroe is in line to replace Terrence Apted at right tackle.

And R.E. Lee product Roane Babington will start the season at left guard, in place of Arthur Walker, who left the program.

Originally recruited as a defensive tackle, Babington was moved to the offensive line during 2008 spring drills. Just months later he was competing with Walker for the starting left guard job, a competition Babington lost.

Babington, now a third-year sophomore, admits part of his downfall last summer was a lack of self-confidence, because of his relative unfamiliarity with the new position.

"But having a whole year to really prepare and learn. And just watch the people ahead of me, people who have done this," says Babington. "I feel much better about myself."

Matthews can also notice a difference.

"He's quicker. He's stronger. And that always gives him more confidence to be a better football player," says Matthews. "He's just a great kid. Dad-gum, I wish we had 25 just like him."

But Matthews saves his biggest compliments for the Dukes' other starting guard.

The coach says no one on the team is playing his particular position in camp this summer than Brooks at right guard. Brooks was also named preseason All-CAA, and was listed on the Sports Network's preseason All-America second team.

Brooks, who is entering his third year as a starter, spent his summer running the offensive line drills at JMU's voluntary workouts at Bridgeforth Stadium. He says he embraces the role of leader.

"It comes with a lot of expectations, but I'm definitely ready to tackle that challenge," says Brooks. "Because it's my goal to help these guys, and learn off of them just as much as they learn from me."


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