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Preview: James Madison

JAMES MADISON

THE VITALS

Last season | 6-6, 3-5 Colonial Athletic Association.

Last playoff bid | 2011 (Defeated Eastern Kentucky, lost to North Dakota State).

THE SCHEDULE

Aug. 30 | at Maryland | 3:30 p.m.

Sept. 6 | at Lehigh | 12:30

Sept. 13 | Saint Francis (Pa.) | 4

Sept. 20 | at Villanova | 12:30

Sept. 27 | Delaware | 4

Oct. 4 | at Albany | 6

Oct. 11 | Towson | 12:30

Oct. 25 | at Charlotte | noon

Nov. 1 | William and Mary | 3:30

Nov. 8 | at Stony Brook | 1

Nov. 15 | at Richmond | 12:30

Nov. 22 | Elon | noon

THE STORYLINES

Regime change | JMU's first non-winning season since 2003 prompted the dismissal of coach Mickey Matthews after 14 years, a tenure that included the 2004 FCS national title. Everett Withers arrives in Harrisonburg after two seasons under Urban Meyer at Ohio State, where he was assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator.

Quarterback transition | Georgia Tech transfer Vad Lee transferred to JMU after two seasons running Paul Johnson's triple-option. He's replacing Michael Birdsong and will have to adjust to Withers' pro-style/spread formations. Lee completed only 45.6 percent of his passes last season.

Defensive formation | Withers and defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who worked last season at Division III John Carroll in Ohio, are switching the Dukes from a 4-3 base to 3-4. They have an experienced group, though, with eight returning starters, headlined by safety Dean Marlowe, end Brandon Lee and linebacker Gage Steele.

THE STANDOUTS

Daniel Brown | Sr. | 6-5 | 220 | WR

Isle of Wight Academy graduate led the Dukes with 42 receptions, 665 yards and eight touchdown catches in 2013. His per-catch average of 15.8 yards showed ability to stretch defenses.

Dean Marlowe | Sr. | 6-2 | 205 | FS

The lone JMU player voted to the preseason All-CAA team, he's earned postseason all-conference in each of his first three years, including first-team in 2012. Started as a true freshman in 2011.

Gage Steele | So. | 6-1 |230 | LB

Was the Dukes' No. 2 tackler last season as a redshirt freshman with 106, 43 solo, five for loss. Also forced and recovered three fumbles.

THE COACH

Everett Withers

JMU is Withers' first full-time head-coaching gig. He served as the interim big whistle at North Carolina in 2011 after the unusual July firing of Butch Davis and guided the Tar Heels to a 7-6 season and Independence Bowl bid. His assistant-coaching stops include Ohio State, UNC, Texas, Minnesota, Louisville and the Tennessee Titans.

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