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JMU Starting Quarterback Battle to Continue into Fall Practice Between DiNucci & Johnson

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Ben DiNucci spent three seasons at Pitt before transferring to JMU Ben DiNucci spent three seasons at Pitt before transferring to JMU
JMU junior quarterback Cole Johnson JMU junior quarterback Cole Johnson
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WVIR) -

The battle for the starting quarterback job at James Madison has been trimmed from four guys to two.

JMU head coach Mike Houston said after Saturday's spring game that juniors Ben DiNucci and Cole Johnson are neck-and-neck and will battle for the starting quarterback job into the fall.

Houston said he anticipates the battle for the starting job to continue right up to JMU's season opener Labor Day weekend at NC State.

 DiNucci transferred to JMU after spending three seasons at the University of Pittsburgh.  Johnson was Bryan Schor's primary backup last season.

"I think you see why it's hard to say one over the other because both of them do so many positive things with the ball in their hands," says Houston. "We truly have a competition on our hands and it's a good competition because it's going to bring out the best in both of them."

In the JMU's spring game Saturday, DiNucci finished the day with 99 yards and a touchdown pass and only three incomplete passes.

"I think I bring some leadership, some energy on that field," says DiNucci. "I think I can throw the ball in the pocket and then make some things happen with my legs. I think you were able to see that a little bit today, getting out of the pocket and making some things happen, so I'm happy with how the day went and guys were making plays. It was fun."

Johnson spent the last two seasons as a backup quarterback, and has a lot familiarity with the Dukes' offense.  He had 58 yards passing in JMU's spring game Saturday but had a nice long touchdown pass called back on a holding penalty.

"I think I'm more of a pro-style quarterback," says Johnson. "I sit in the pocket and try to pick defenses apart with my arm. I can do it with my legs but I'm primarily a pocket passer. I have a very good understanding of this offense, being under coach O'Patrick for two years, so that's one of my bigger strengths.

JMU's spring football game Saturday was highlighted by junior defensive lineman John Daka, who had four sacks.  Redshirt sophomore receiver Jake Brown paced the offense with seven receptions for 58 yards. Both redshirt junior tight end Mack Cullen and redshirt freshman receiver Kyndel Dean each caught touchdown passes.

Following the game, the Dukes received their 2017 Colonial Athletic Association championship rings in an on-field ceremony.

JMU head coach Mike Houston also says that defense end Juan Moye, who transferred to JMU from Virginia is no longer with the team.  Houston didn't give any other details.