Moreland named CAA Defensive Player of the Year

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RICHMOND, Va. – Redshirt senior cornerback Jimmy Moreland was voted 2018 Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year, and James Madison turned in a league-leading 14 All-CAA selections, as the conference rolled out its end-of-year football awards on Tuesday afternoon.

Moreland was recognized as the CAA’s top defensive athlete after turning in a solid regular season in the secondary. He paces the league with five interceptions, which ranks seventh nationally. He set the JMU and CAA record with three interceptions for a touchdown this season and has racked up a JMU single-season record 217 interception return yards. Moreland has made 40 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss and a sack. He also has a forced fumble, one recovery and a blocked kick while breaking up nine passes.

It’s the second straight year a JMU player has won the CAA’s top defensive award, as Moreland is the program’s 10th Defensive Player of the Year. The Dukes have also won a major award in each of the past four seasons.

Joining Moreland on the All-CAA First Team are redshirt sophomore punt returner D’Angelo Amos, redshirt junior defensive lineman Ron’Dell Carter, redshirt senior linebacker Robert Carter Jr., and junior safety Adam Smith.

Four Dukes made the All-CAA Second Team in sophomore offensive lineman Liam Fornadel, redshirt junior linebacker Dimitri Holloway, sophomore punter Harry O’Kelly and redshirt junior receiver Riley Stapleton. Rounding out the conference awards on the Third Team are junior defensive lineman John Daka, redshirt junior quarterback Ben DiNucci, redshirt sophomore kick returner Jawon Hamilton and junior offensive lineman Mac Patrick.

Amos leads the nation with three punt returns for a touchdown and 24.3 yards per return. He’s the only player in the CAA with more than one punt return for a touchdown, as his three matched all other players combined across the conference. Amos earned National Player of the Week honors after JMU’s win at Villanova, where he tied program records with two punt returns for a touchdown, 183 punt return yards and a long of 89 yards on his first score.

Ron’Dell is JMU’s sacks leader, as he ranks fourth in the CAA with 7.5 sacks. He’s also ninth in the conference with 11.5 tackles for loss, which ranks second for the Dukes. Ron’Dell is JMU’s fifth-leading tackler, tallying 43 in his 11 starts on the line. In the season opener, he recorded career highs of seven tackles and 3.0 tackles for loss. Ron’Dell produced seven games with a TFL and seven outings with a sack.

Robert is JMU’s leader on special teams, where he serves as the gunner on kick coverage and a lead blocker in the return game. He anchors a kick-return defense that ranks second in the FCS (14.47 avg.) and JMU’s punt return squad is also second nationally (23.30).

Smith ranks second on the team and ninth in the CAA with three interceptions. He is JMU’s second-leading tackler with 58 total tackles, including 37 solo. Smith also broke up three passes. He recorded four games with seven or more tackles, including a career-best 10 at NC State.

Fornadel and Patrick have started every game on the offensive line, as Fornadel is at right tackle and Patrick is the center. JMU’s offense ranks 14th nationally in scoring offense, at 36.5 points per game. The Dukes are also second in the FCS in completion percentage (68.2%) while ranking first in the CAA on third down (46.5%), second in both total offense (416.5) and first downs (235), third in rushing offense (190.0) and fourth in passing offense (226.5).

Holloway leads the Dukes with 106 total tackles, as he ranks second in the league with 9.6 stops per game. He has also added 9.0 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a pair of breakups. He registered a career-high 18 tackles against Stony Brook and has gone over 10 tackles in five games. He had nine or more stops in seven of eight conference games and had a tackle for loss in eight of 11 starts.

O’Kelly is a repeat Second Team honoree this season. He had the second-fewest punts (41) of any CAA punter during the regular season. He averages 38.9 yards per punt due in large to the short field on the majority of his attempts. He did, however, have six boots over 50 yards, including a season-long 58 yarder. O’Kelly boomed 19 of his 41 punts inside the 20 and had no kicks blocked. He also faked a punt for a first down at New Hampshire.

Stapleton is JMU’s leading receiver, tallying 56 receptions for 662 yards and seven touchdowns. He is tied for second in the CAA in receiving touchdowns, fourth in receptions per game (5.1) and eighth in receiving yards. Stapleton has had six games with at least six catches, including three with eight-plus. He turned in a season-best 116 yards at New Hampshire and produced more than 65 receiving yards in six games.

Daka leads the team and ranks fourth in the CAA with 13.5 tackles for loss. He’s also second for JMU and seventh across the league with 6.5 sacks, which included a career-high two sacks at Towson. He registered a career-best 3.5 tackles for loss at Richmond and had 1.5 TFLs or more in five outings. Daka has notched 42 total tackles thus far and forced two fumbles.

DiNucci, who earned the starting quarterback job in the summer, leads the CAA and ranks second nationally in completion percentage (69%). He also paces the conference in pass efficiency rating and has scored the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, with eight, which is third-best by any CAA player. DiNucci is 169-of-245 for 1,860 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, as he’s also second in the league with 23 total touchdowns. He completed more than 70 percent of passes in five games and passed for three or more touchdowns in three outings.

Hamilton leads the CAA with a 28.7 kick-return average and had a career-long 93-yard return for a touchdown at Richmond. He had three returns over 40 yards, which also included a 44 yarder against Robert Morris and a 49 yarder at New Hampshire.

Ratke converted 14-of-16 field-goal attempts in seven games played this season. He made at least three field goals in three games, including a career-best and program-record four against Elon. Ratke is also perfect on point-after attempts, making all 32. He ranks third in the CAA in total field goals made, but ranks first in both field goals per game, at 2.0, and scoring average, at 10.6 points.

JMU led all CAA teams with 14 All-CAA selections, while Maine had 12, Towson had 11 and Stony Brook had 10. Additionally, the Dukes matched Towson and Delaware for the most All-CAA First Team honorees, with five.

Seventh-ranked JMU opens postseason play Saturday, Nov. 24 when it hosts No. 21 Delaware in the opening round of the 2018 NCAA FCS Playoffs. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. at Bridgeforth Stadium and will be streamed on ESPN3.

2018 All-CAA Selections
First Team All-CAA
Jimmy Moreland (CB) – Defensive Player of the Year
D’Angelo Amos (PR)
Ron’Dell Carter (DL)
Adam Smith (S)
Robert Carter Jr. (SPEC)

Second Team All-CAA
Liam Fornadel (OL)
Dimitri Holloway (LB)
Harry O’Kelly (P)
Riley Stapleton (WR)

Third Team All-CAA
John Daka (DL)
Ben DiNucci (QB)
Jawon Hamilton (KR)
Mac Patrick (OL)
Ethan Ratke (PK)