Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

Given the significant activity in the transfer portal during the winter, we figured it might be easier to track JMU football’s spring portal activity in a new tracker. Here’s the link to our winter tracker.

Transfer additions

Chris Shearin, DB, UConn – A Suffolk, VA native, Shearin began his collegiate career at Missouri before transferring to UConn ahead of the 2022 season. The last two seasons with the Huskies he has racked up 82 tackles, four interceptions, 13 pass breakups and one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He has one year of eligibility left.

Ja’Kai Young, DB, Gardner-Webb – Young comes to JMU after earning First Team All-OVC honors in 2023, posting 41 tackles and two interceptions. He’s an athletic corner/nickel with decent size (6′ and 180 lbs) who can help fill the void left by D’Angelo Ponds. He has one year of eligibility left.

Christopher Fitzgerald, DT, Youngstown State – Fitzgerald committed to Eastern Michigan in late April, but he flipped his decision about a week later to join JMU. Fitzgerald was listed at 6′ and 275 lbs by Youngstown State last season, and the interior defensive lineman was highly productive in one of the best FCS leagues. He’s tallied 65 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, and five sacks over the last two seasons.

Fitzgerald has one season of eligibility left, and he should help fill the void left by Tyrique Tucker.

Ahmarian Granger, WR, Old Dominion – After playing for ODU in 2022 and 2023, Granger stays in Virginia and joins the Dukes. He caught 15 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown in 2023. Coming out of high school, Granger played wide receiver and quarterback and received a few Power Five offers. He’ll join a crowded and talented wide receiver room at JMU.

Khairi Manns, LB, Maine/Colorado – Manns began his college career at Maine, amassing 108 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks in 26 games. He then played one season for Deion Sanders at Colorado, tallying nine tackles and a sack.

Brionne Penny, WR, San Diego State – JMU has an abundance of riches at wide receiver, and Penny brings impressive height to the room. The 6’3 wide receiver caught 24 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown in 2023, a decent accomplishment given that San Diego State had one of the worst passing offenses in the country in 2023. He ranked third on the team in receiving yards and should have a legitimate chance to break into JMU’s rotation.

He has one season of eligibility left, and he’s likely to contribute in some way. He’s also a capable kick and punt returner, giving him special teams upside.

Transfer departures

Tyrique Tucker, DL, Indiana – The defensive tackle was solid in 2023, playing in all 13 games with five starts. He tallied 29 tackles to go with 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. With three years of eligibility left, there was hope among fans that he could develop into a standout in 2024. He was a projected starter entering spring ball.

Tucker announced on social media he’s heading to Indiana to play for Curt Cignetti.

Sammy Malignaggi, RB/KR, Campbell – A backup running back, Malignaggi carried the ball 13 times for 71 yards last season. Given JMU’s transfer additions at running back, it’s unlikely he was going to see much playing time in 2024.

Malignaggi is moving to the FCS level to play for Campbell. He’ll have a chance to earn meaningful playing time.

Solomon Vanhorse, RB, Indiana – When healthy, Vanhorse was a weapon at returner and running back. He finishes his JMU career with more than 500 receiving yards, rushing yards, and return yards. He was likely JMU’s RB3, however, behind Ayo Adeyi and George Pettaway.

Like many other JMU players in the portal, Vanhorse will play for Cignetti and Indiana.

Collin Carroll, TE – Carroll redshirted in 2023, his first season of college football. He’s leaving the program, perhaps in search of more playing time. JMU has a crowded tight end room headlined by Kyi Wright and Taylor Thompson, among others.

Wesley Bostic, OL – Bostic enters the portal with three years of eligibility left. The reserve lineman wasn’t projected to see significant playing time for JMU in 2024.

Nakai Poole, WR – Poole transferred to JMU from Mississippi State in the offseason, but he’s quickly back in the portal, per On3.

Aaron Gunn, OL – A reserve offensive lineman, Gunn appeared in three games for JMU in 2023. The former Louisville transfer wasn’t projected as a major contributor in 2024, and now he’s back in the portal.

Rykin Maxwell, WR – A reserve wide receiver, Maxwell shared on social media that he’s in the portal. He didn’t record a catch as a JMU player, redshirting in his lone season (2023) with the program.

D’Angelo Ponds, CB, Indiana – This one hurts. Ponds became a starter as a freshman, developing into one of the top young corners in the entire country. He finished the season with 51 tackles, 15 pass breakups, and two interceptions.

Ponds picked Indiana, despite interest from Auburn and Miami, among others.

AJ Abbasi, DE – Abbasi joined the program over the offseason, and he’s quickly into the portal. He wasn’t expected to be a contributor along the defensive line, but he does have elite size (6’4 and 290 lbs) for a defensive end.

Seth Naotala, LB – A backup linebacker and special teams player, Naotala enters the portal with two years of eligibility left. He would’ve had a hard time earning meaningful snaps at linebacker for the Dukes, given their depth at the position.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here