Just call them the “Pac Boyz.”
The phrase, devised by redshirt freshman cornerback Jamari Currence, is the nickname James Madison’s secondary has adopted for the year. “Pac” stands for “passes aren’t caught.” If all goes as they plan, “passes aren’t caught” will turn into a theme on the field each Saturday, too.
The Dukes’ secondary returns plenty of experience, including senior cornerback Rashad Robinson (Hermitage), junior safety D’Angelo Amos (Meadowbrook), senior safety Adam Smith and junior Wayne Davis, a 2018 Ohio State transfer who played a hybrid nickel cornerback/outside linebacker position last season.
The unit appears primed to again be one of the best in the Colonial Athletic Association and the country, and coach Curt Cignetti is excited about the potential.
“You got proven players back there, and then you got other guys with potential that could be really good players,” Cignetti said. “And we just got to keep them on the field, stay healthy and get them playing good.”
Under Cignetti — in his first year at JMU after two years at Elon — and new defensive coordinator Corey Hetherman — who spent the past four seasons at Maine — the Dukes will try to realize that potential in a new scheme, a 4-2-5 that shares similarities to what they’ve run previously.
What Hetherman wants, Smith said, is for the Dukes to play fast, with less thinking.
“I think that the way he’s installing each individual coverage, and each individual package ... [that’s] allowing us to be able to take things day by day and take it play by play and be able to learn and play fast and play to the best of our ability,” Smith said.
Having so much experience would seem to expedite the adjustment. Amos, Smith and Davis started last year while Robinson was out with a turf toe injury. Robinson is the oldest in the group now, back for a fifth and final year.
With all the football he’s seen, Robinson is an asset for the rest of the group. Smith said the former Hermitage quarterback can win the moments before the snap — he can explain to the others what he believes an opponent is about to run.
“And we trust him; He’s a guy that we can count on,” Smith said.
The goal, Robinson said, is for JMU to lead the nation in interceptions again, which it did in 2018 (31) and 2017 (21). Jimmy Moreland, now with the Redskins, led the charge last year with five interceptions. Smith had three.
Robinson picked off seven in 2017 — his last year on the field.
“That’s been the expectation for us, we’ve been known as a program to have one of the top secondaries in the FCS, and we want to get back to that,” Robinson said. “And I know we have the potential for that. So we’ve been working on that all summer.”
One question mark that remains is the Dukes’ starter at the second traditional cornerback spot with Robinson. They have multiple options, including three who started games last year: junior Wesley McCormick, senior Charles Tutt and junior Taurus Carroll (Benedictine).
Smith likes them all.
“I think Charles Tutt is a veteran, he knows what he’s talking about, he knows the technique. ... And I think Wesley’s doing a great job also,” Smith said. “I think Willie Drew is doing a great job. I see good things from Taurus Carroll, see good things from Jamari, so we’re really excited to see where this cornerback group goes.”
For whoever steps into that role, the expectation seems clear: Passes aren’t caught.
“I think we take that pretty literally,” Smith said. “And we get on each other when passes are caught, and I think we’re pushing each other each day.”