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JMU's Healthy Thorpe used time off to improve
Justin Thorpe has been involved in a quarterback competition at James Madison since he was a redshirt freshman, so being in another seems normal to the junior from Varina High School.
What isn’t normal for Thorpe is he’s the veteran, relatively speaking, even though he basically has one year of experience.
“It’s a little different being in the competition when you’re the upperclassman out of the bunch,” Thorpe said Friday at JMU’s media day. “The past two, I was the young guy who was trying to take the reins. I feel like this year, I’m just trying not to lose the reins.”
Thorpe, who missed all but one half last season with a knee injury, began preseason practice a little bit ahead of redshirt freshman transfer Billy Cosh and redshirt freshman Jace Edwards. JMU coach Mickey Matthews said that hasn’t changed.
“We’re not going to name anybody for a while, but I think Justin is practicing very well,” Matthews said. “The other guys have had some good practices, too.
“Justin’s doing a lot of good things. He’s probably throwing the ball better than I thought he would.”
Thorpe started eight games as a redshirt freshman in 2009, when he was the Colonial Athletic Association’s rookie of the year. He ran for 654 yards and five touchdowns, and he was 82 of 145 for 1,260 yards passing, with six TDs and nine interceptions.
His season ended in the first game last year when he hyperextended his knee just before halftime.
Surgery was not required, but Thorpe said his knee didn’t begin to feel somewhat normal until January, when he was able to go almost full speed in some of the Dukes’ “Mickey Fun Runs.” Those are a series of sprints starting at 6 a.m.
He participated in spring practices but was held out of live work.
Inconsistent play at quarterback was one of the factors in JMU’s offensive struggles (17.7 points per game) and a 6-5 mark last year. Thorpe said it was tough watching from the sideline knowing he couldn’t help.
The down time, he said, was helpful in one respect: He watched a lot of film. That has helped him better analyze coverages.
“As far as the (interceptions), that will go away with time,” he said. “I was a freshman, and things were moving 1,000 miles per hour. Now that I’m a junior, I can tell that things have slowed down tremendously. I just go out there and take my time and manage the game.”
Thorpe is one of the fastest Dukes — he’s been timed at 4.4 seconds in the 40 — so a knee injury is a concern. He says it’s 100 percent.
“I’ll go out on a limb: I think I’m faster than I was before I got hurt,” he said. “I’ve lost about 10 pounds. I’m at 205, back to my high school weight, and feeling good.
“I’m moving the offense and coming out here doing what I was born to do.”
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Notes: Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Dae’Quan Scott was moved to running back at the start of preseason practice. Matthews wants the ball in his hands more. Last year, Scott was inserted as a running quarterback and had big games against William and Mary (125 yards, three TDs) and Maine (61 yards, one TD). . . . Matthews said freshman Andre Coble (Meadowbrook) has “jumped off the page” since being moved from quarterback to wide receiver. . . . Redshirt freshman offensive lineman A.J. Scott (6-foot-6, 280 pounds), a transfer from Marshall, got his paperwork in order and was enrolled Thursday, Matthews said.
By: Tim Pearrell, Times and Dispatch