For the past few seasons, the depth chart at tight end at James Madison seemed to be set in stone, with the same two names at the top: Mike Caussin and Charlie Newman.
"That's been a great position for us," coach Mickey Matthews says. "Charlie could do a lot of things for us, and we'll miss him. Michael Caussin made a lot of big catches for us on third down. We're going to miss them."
Their eligibility exhausted, both players are gone this spring. And a pair of rising sophomores, Brian Barlow and Jonathan Sharp, have ascended into those spots on the depth chart.
Both players say the time spent behind Caussin and Newman was invaluable.
"I say everyday, 'I need to get better, I need to get better.' Just looking at them, and how they developed," says Sharp, who's entering his second season at JMU. "It's inspiration for both me and Barlow to work harder, and to get better."
"I wouldn't be anywhere close to the player I am today," says Barlow, the Sherando alum who redshirted two seasons ago. "Watching them for two years, I learned steps, hand placement, everything. Those guys were the best. I just hope I can be half the player they were."
Last season, Caussin finished second on JMU with 25 catches for 438 yards, and his four touchdown receptions were tied with Rockeed McCarter for the team lead.
Newman, an alum of nearby Turner Ashby High School, was used mostly as a blocker throughout his JMU career, and also served as the team's long snapper. He had two catches for 35 yards as a senior, including a touchdown against Delaware.
Barlow and Sharp both appeared mostly on special teams in 2009, with Sharp contributing three tackles and Barlow adding one. Neither player had a catch last season.
Matthews expects that to change this fall.
"Both those guys, they can do the magic things," he says. "They're tough guys, one, as a tight end. And two, they can catch the ball. So I think the future is bright for both those guys."
"I can't wait," Barlow says. "I've been here for two years. I'm finally starting to get the offense and everything. Special teams was really fun last year. I just can't wait to get on offense and help the team out."
"We both can block, we both can catch. We both have speed," says Sharp. "I think we both can help this offense a lot."
"We'll see how they do. And they are different," says Matthews. "Brian does some things differently than Charlie did them. And Jonathan can really get down the field, probably faster than the other guys."
Barlow and Sharp both look forward to making their own mark over the next three seasons.
"Mike was more of a receiving guy, and Charlie was more of a blocking guy," says Barlow. "I'd like to try to be both, but whatever they need me to do, I'll do."
"When people say you're the next Mike, or you're the next Charlie, I don't want it to be like that," says Sharp. "I want it to be, 'Hey, it's the next Sharp and the next Barlow.'"
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