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JMU Running Back Cardon Johnson Gets Sixth Year of Eligibility

Cardon Johnson JMU Football

The James Madison Dukes received some great news on Thursday. The NCAA granted senior running back Cardon Johnson a sixth year of eligibility. The Newport News native received the extra year due to medical hardship. He tore his Achilles for a second straight season in 2017. The decision came a day before the Dukes’  Pro Day scheduled on Friday in front of NFL scouts. JMU coach Mike Houston made the announcement and had this to say about the decision. “It was the right thing to do by the NCAA for a guy who’s had as many hardships as he has,” Houston said. “We all understand that Cardon wants to finish his career on a higher note than an injury like last year, so it was a good move by the NCAA and for Cardon, and we’re excited to see what this year holds for him.”

While injuries have plagued Johnson throughout his college football career, he has also shown a ton of potential. The 5-foot-9 202 pound Johnson has rushed for 2,088 yards and 21 touchdowns in 24 career games with the Dukes. His best season was in 2015 where he played in 12 games and rushed for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns. Johnson was on a similar pace in 2016 before his second injury. In 2017, Johnson was off to another hot start. He rushed for 347 yards and 3 touchdowns in three games. That was before his most recent injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. Against East Carolina to open the season, Johnson rushed for a career-high 265 yards.

The thing that makes Cardon Johnson a dangerous runner is his yards per carry. He’s averaging 6.7 ypc in his career at James Madison. A 9.4 ypc average had him on the radar of being one of the best runners in FCS football last season. He can hit a hole hard and has the agility to put a move on a defender to break into the open field.  If he can pick up where he left off, the Dukes will be riding high on the ground game. James Madison finished 25th in FCS football with 194 rushing yards per game in 2017. Trai Sharp and Marcus Marshall handled the running duties in Johnson’s absence and did a very good job. Marshall was the leading rusher for the Dukes with 850 yards and 11 touchdowns. Sharp was an outstanding complement with 759 yards on the ground.

The running game for JMU will be critical this coming season. Bryon Schorr has graduated and the Dukes are looking for his replacement. Cole Johnson is the likely candidate, but has thrown only 51 passes in two seasons. Pitt transfer Ben DiNucci will also push for playing time under center. While DiNucci has more experience, Johnson is the more accurate passer. With questions at quarterback, the Dukes will heavily rely on the ground game  in 2018. With Johnson back, a dangerous duo in the backfield becomes a triple threat. So relying on the ground game won’t be much of a concern.