BALTIMORE, Md.- Returning nine starters from one of the nation's top defenses in 2010, the James Madison University football squad was picked to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2011, announced today at the CAA's annual Football Media Day at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md. The poll was voted on by the by the league's head coaches and sports information directors predict a second place finish for the Dukes in 2011. The Dukes, who finished just 6-5 last season, return a key group of players as they look to improve their offensive play.
Despite a 6-5 record and a tie for eighth last year, the Dukes picked up four first-place votes to finish second in the poll behind defending champion William & Mary, who received 12 first-place votes. National finalist Delaware was third in the poll, including two first-place votes, followed by New Hampshire in fourth and Massachusetts in fifth. Rounding out the poll in order were Richmond, Villanova, Rhode Island, who received one first-place vote, Maine, CAA-newcomer Old Dominion and Towson.
Along with a second-place prediction, the Dukes placed four players on the pre-season All-CAA list, third most for any school behind William & Mary's six and Richmond's five. Senior offensive lineman Roane Babington (Staunton, Va/ Robert E. Lee), senior safety Vidal Nelson (Virginia Beach, Va/ Kellam), sophomore linebacker Stephon Robertson (Alexandria, Va/ Edison) and junior punter David Skahn (Centerville, Va/ Westfield) all received pre-season All-CAA recognition for the Dukes.
Babington, who is also a Rimington Award candidate for the nation's top center, returns as a starter for his third straight year on the offensive line. He received second team All-CAA last season as well as second team All-State after starting the last 20 games for the Dukes and 32 of a possible 33 games in his career. He has also been named a pre-season First-Team All-CAA by pick by Phil Steele.
Nelson comes off a season in which he was the Dukes' third leading tackler and was named First-Team All-State by the Virginia Sports Information Directors. He started all 11 games for the Dukes' as the team's only defensive captain, finishing with 70 tackles including 6.5 for loss and one sack. Nelson also notched five pass deflections and two forced fumbles on the season. He posted a career-high 13 tackles last year at Richmond.
Robertson is coming off a season where he was named CAA Defensive Rookie-of-the-Year and earned All-State Second-Team honors. Robertson was the Dukes' second leading tackler with 90 tackles, including 35 solos and 9.5 tackles-for-loss. He had one sack and forced three fumbles in just his first season of play. He had a career day at then-FBS No. 13 Virginia Tech, recording a season-high 13 tackles and a key forced fumble late in the fourth quarter that helped seal the win over the Hokies.
Skahn returns as a veteran with two years of experience under his belt. Last season he averaged 39.2 yards per punt on 48 punts for the Dukes. He recorded five punts of 50 yards or more, including a career-best 55 yarder against Massachusetts, and pinned the opponent inside its own 20-yard line 11 times.
The Dukes open their schedule with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff at FBS North Carolina on September 3rd before coming home to unveil the expanded Bridgeforth Stadium/Zane Showker Field against Central Connecticut State on September 10th at 6 p.m.