Everett Withers and his staff have been busy in their first off-season at JMU, bringing a new focus and drive to the program to which even veteran players had to get adjusted.
"It took a couple week," said senior lineman Austin Lane. "A little period where they just really got into us. We had an adjustment period. The whole staff has just brought a high energy system to us . It's really contagious and we're all just really excited to get moving and get into the games and see how it pays off for us."
That high energy approach from the coaches had led to some intense practices. Sprints, bear crawls, and pushups for hours on end. While the off-season workouts were grueling, the players now see how the challenge brought them together.
"They made us basically go through the worst possible scenario together, and I think when you go through something like that, you earn the respect of the man next to you," said senior receiver Daniel Brown.
"A lot of different drills that helped us notice that we need the guy next to you as much as you need yourself and more," said senior lineman Matt Williams. "So it's not about us. It's about we."
"We've been through hell together, really," said Lane. "It's brought us together closer because nobody else has done that. Those are your brothers. You went through that with them."
It's become a tight-knit group at Madison, and with tighter bonds come higher expectations.
"We know what we can do," said junior quarterback Vad Lee. "We think that we have a great team, and we're looking forward to doing great things. We really don't care about what everybody else has to say, but everybody will be here on Saturdays and they can watch us play."
If camaraderie is any indication, the Dukes will be tough out this fall.