James Madison got in one final football practice Thursday afternoon before getting on the road for Hofstra.
Saturday's game against the Pride is the CAA opener for JMU. The Dukes are the reigning conference champions, after last season's unbeaten 8-0 record.
On Thursday, players said the thought of defending their title hadn't crossed their minds.
"We look at every game as we've got to win it. We feel like our defense has to be the best, and everything like that. And I feel like our offense has to be efficient," says senior defensive end Arthur Moats. "So we don't really look at it as, 'Alright, now it's time to turn it on because it's time for the CAA title.'"
"It's not defending the title," says senior defensive tackle Sam Daniels. "It's going out there and playing hard game by game, and trying to win the conference again."
Moats and Daniels will have a new facing lining up alongside them on the defensive line Saturday. Coach Mickey Matthews said true freshman Sean O'Neil will make his first career start at left defensive end against the Pride.
O'Neil didn't register a tackle in his first college appearance last week against Liberty. Sophomore D.J. Bryant started that game at left end, after redshirt freshman started the Dukes' first two games.
Matthews said it's also possible the offensive line could have a new look Saturday as well. Senior Donny Smith had started JMU's first three games at center, Matthews said Smith has been dealing with an ankle injury this week.
If Smith can't play, Matthews said R.E. Lee alum Roane Babington would shift from left guard to center, and redshirt freshman Earl Watford would fill in at left guard.
Matthews called the situation "a game-time decision."