Fifth-year senior Johnson brings experience to JMU QB competition

Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 4:29 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Many quarterbacks in Cole Johnson’s position would’ve likely moved on from the James Madison football team by this point but the fifth-year senior has been patient and again has a chance to become the Dukes’ starting QB.

Johnson is getting ready for his third quarterback competition in as many years. Johnson had the opportunity to compete for the Dukes’ starting job before the 2018 and 2019 seasons but Ben DiNucci won both competitions and started every game for JMU during that span. Johnson, however, chose to not to transfer and remains at JMU where he has seen the field, sometimes in meaningful snaps, as the Dukes’ No. 2 quarterback over the last four years.

With DiNucci off the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys, Johnson and redshirt junior Gage Moloney are now competing for the starting quarterback job at JMU. Johnson has the edge in experience: he’s appeared in 22 games, thrown for 1,099 yards, six touchdowns, and six interceptions.

“He’s very mature, he’s smart,” said JMU head coach Curt Cignetti. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders. He knows the offense inside and out. He throws the ball extremely well.”

Johnson is pocket passer known for ability to throw the deep ball but he has also flashed some speed and athleticism with the Dukes. In a 54-16 win over New Hampshire during the 2019 season, Johnson busted off a 33-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter.

“He runs better than you think,” said Cignetti. “He’s had significant snaps here in the past. He’s started games, a game as a freshman and when he came in as a backup, he did a really nice job.”

With the 2020 fall season suspended, JMU is pursuing a competitive schedule in the spring of 2021.

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