Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Bennett Conlin
JMU football shared its spring football roster online this week, and three notable veteran Dukes appear on the roster.
Defensive end Abi Nwabuoku-Okonji and linebacker Taurus Jones each entered the portal in the offseason, but both players appear on the Dukes’ spring roster. It’s possible one (or both) of them could reenter the portal in the spring, but for now they’re expected to be with JMU in 2024.
Running back Solomon Vanhorse, who suffered a season-ending injury early in the 2023 season, is also listed on the roster and expected to be with JMU for the 2024 season.
JMU lost a ton along the defensive line to graduation and transfer with Jalen Green, Jamree Kromah, James Carpenter, and Mikail Kamara all gone. Keeping Nwabuoku-Okonji is a massive lift.
The former Minnesota transfer was expected to play a key role in 2023, but suffered an injury against Bucknell. He finished 2022 with 21 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss. When healthy, he’s capable of being a starting defensive end. Look for him to work into the Dukes’ rotation in 2024.
Jones’ return is significant. The linebacker posted 38 tackles in 2023, playing through injuries for most of the season. He led the Dukes with 82 tackles in 2022, also adding 10.5 tackles for loss in the Dukes’ first Sun Belt season.
When healthy, Jones is an All-Sun Belt caliber linebacker. He’s a likely starter alongside Jacob Dobbs in 2024, if healthy. The Dukes’ linebacker room lost Aiden Fisher and Jailin Walker, but transfer additions coupled with the return of Jones and Trent Hendrick should help the position maintain a good level of production.
Similar to the other two veteran returners, when Vanhorse is healthy, he’s special. He possesses great hands, good speed, and top-end agility.
Vanhorse can contribute for JMU at running back, slot receiver, and on special teams as a returner. The Dukes’ punt return game was inconsistent in 2023, largely due to Vanhorse missing most of the season. He’s a weapon in the return game and should compete for time on offense in 2024.
Keeping Vanhorse healthy through the spring and summer will be important.