The decision to move Griff Yancey back to offense has created a hole in James Madison's defensive backfield.
Head coach Mickey Matthews says the Dukes are turning to fifth-year senior Brandon Randolph and true freshman Jakarie Jackson to fill that hole.
"We're having a little bit of withdrawal, which I've said all along," Matthews said Wednesday at practice. "When you've had Tony LeZotte and Marcus Haywood for the last five or six years playing that position, I'm not happy because I'm used to the way those guys played."
Initially, JMU went with Yancey, who moved to defense after two seasons at running back, to be next in line at the position. However, Yancey returned his old position this week to help an offense left shorthanded by injuries.
Randolph got his first career start filling in for an injured Yancey last month against VMI, "and played pretty well," according to Matthews.
"Brandon probably hasn't played as good as we would have liked him to in his career. But he has had the perseverance to hang in there, and he sees an opportunity now," Matthews said. "And he practiced pretty good yesterday. So we'll certainly give him every opportunity."
"I think it helps me out a lot. It gives me a little game experience, see what it's like going at game speed," Randolph said of his VMI start. "I just feel like it allows me the opportunity to play again."
Matthews says Jackson has been JMU's fastest-developing true freshman, almost since arriving for preseason practices.
"We use the term, in coaching defense, a guy who flashes. Because he has quickness," Matthews said. "And he's a guy, when we scrimmaged in August, he would show a lot of flashes. He'd just come from nowhere and make a play."
Jackson admits he's surprised himself with his rapid progression.
"It's been good, just coming out here and working hard everyday," he said. "Giving 100 percent, and showing my coaches that I can do it."
The inexperienced tandem will be tested this weekend, when the Dukes host No. 1 Richmond. But both are confident they can contribute to a defense currently ranked fifth in the CAA in yards allowed per game.
"I feel like if I show up and play my game we'll be good to go," said Randolph. "Because we have a solid defense, as long as we play well."
"I feel good that I'm able to come out and compete with one of the best teams in our conference," Jackson said. "So I'm just here to help out our defense and hopefully come out with a win."
"They'll be fine," said their head coach. "They're going to make some mistakes from time to time, but overall I like the way they practiced yesterday, and they'll be just fine."