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Switching sides suits JMU's Babington
Roane Babington started his career at James Madison as a defensive lineman.
So how did he go from shedding blocks to making them as one of the best centers in Football Championship Subdivision?
“Well, you’ve got to be pretty smart,” he said with a laugh. “The old joke around here is the smartest defensive linemen go to center.”
Roane is one of several players on the Dukes’ offensive line who have switched sides. “We like to have athletic offensive linemen,” he said. In this case, the move has been particularly rewarding.
The 6-foot-2 300-pounder is a candidate for the Rimington Award as the top center in FCS. The senior will be directing assignments up front when 12th-ranked JMU collides with No. 6 William and Mary in Williamsburg on Saturday.
It’s a job that suits Roane, who likes to be in control, describes himself as “chippy” and hard-nosed on the field, likes to cook and is not at a loss for words.
“I’ve always been a talker,” he said. “Everybody in my classes always laughs at me because I’m always the annoying kid who always sits in front of the class and answers every teacher’s question. I’m an old Southern boy from New Orleans. My family, when we get together, we’re always yelling at each other out of good humor because we all love to talk.”
Babington moved to Staunton in 2005 and was an all-state defensive end and honorable mention tight end at Robert E. Lee High. Depth issues caused his move to offensive left guard during spring practice his freshman year, and he was used there as a reserve as a redshirt freshman.
There was talk of switching Babington to center as a sophomore, but he started most of the year at guard. He moved to center last year and was named second team all-Colonial Athletic Association.
“The first thing for me was, ‘Dear God, I’ve got to snap the ball now,’” he said. “Under center isn’t as bad, but the shotgun snap for a young center is (rough). … The problem was, I didn’t have an older guy to teach me. There was a lot of learning and patience among the coaches to get me through that.”
Babington said his defensive background aided the transition because he was able to recognize schemes. He sometimes spends time with JMU’s defensive coaches quizzing them about blitzes and calls.
“I’m a football dork. I spend all my time studying film,” said Babington, who has a degree in history, is working on his master’s in education and would like to teach and coach high school in the Richmond area.
“I always try to figure out if a defense is going to do this blitz, why? … A lot of times I want to know why a defense would do things in a certain situation. That’s the thing that helps you out on the field. It’s third and 6, you want to know what defense might come at you.”
By: Tim Pearrell, The News Virginian