Matthews Shuffles Staff, Takes Over Play-Calling

By: Damon Dillman Email
By: Damon Dillman Email

After watching his team struggle offensively the past two seasons, James Madison football coach Mickey Matthews is taking matters into his own hands.

Matthews, who is entering his 12th season as JMU's head coach, announced Monday he will take over as the team's quarterbacks coach, and call offensive plays this season.

"We're going to start on ground zero with our offensive football team," Matthews said. "We've got some new quarterbacks coming into town that could certainly compete for the job. I just felt like we needed to change."

Play-calling and quarterbacks coach were both responsibilities that had belonged to offensive coordinator Jeff Durden. Matthews said Monday that Durden will remain the team's offensive coordinator, but will now coach tight ends.

"It's not like we're throwing him away. He's a dadgum good football coach," Matthews said of Durden, who has been on the JMU staff since 2004.

"And no one's blaming Jeff Durden," Matthews added. "I called Jeff in and told him I was making these changes, and told him I didn't blame him. If I blamed him, I'd be replacing him."

Despite featuring what Matthews frequently referred to as a "championship defense," JMU went 6-5 and missed the FCS playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

Matthews said Monday that the Dukes' issues stemmed from injuries at both quarterback and along the offensive line, and the struggles of quarterbacks Drew Dudzik and Justin Thorpe.

Dudzik's eligibility expired following the 2010 season, an Thorpe's status is still uncertain as he recovers from a knee injury that cost him most of last season.

Matthews said redshirt freshman Jace Edwards and newcomers Andre Coble and Billy Cosh, a Kansas State transfer, will be in the mix at quarterback this spring.

"Offensive philosophy will always be what your quarterback can do," he said. "We've recruited these two quarterbacks, and we're going to see where they fit in exactly, who can move our football team. We've got to play better at that position. There's no question."

The coaching staff shuffle also included former tight ends coach Josh Haymore's move to assistant defensive line coach.

Matthews said he decided on the moves in January, but waited until prior to spring ball to make the official announcement. The Dukes' first practice is Friday.

Matthews also acknowledged that his new roles on offense could open the door for additional scrutiny, but he seemed unfazed.

"You're not going to be the head coach at James Madison very long anyway if you don't win a lot of games," he said. "My job is to win."


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