April 07, 2017

(STATS) - James Madison will be presented with its 2016 FCS national championship rings following Saturday's annual spring intrasquad game at Bridgeforth Stadium.

Afterward, the Dukes don't plan to do much more looking back. There's too much to accomplish moving forward.

"Last year's last year. Last year's team won the national championship," second-year coach Mike Houston said. "This year's team has yet to see what it's going to be and what it's going to do. Every year's a new year and every team's a new team."

In recent months, Houston visited with the coaching staff at FBS national champion Clemson, when he spoke at their coaching clinic, and Dukes defensive coordinator Bob Trott consulted with Bill Belichick of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots about maintaining a high level of excellence.

The Dukes could be the preseason No. 1, and not just because they're the defending FCS champions. Among their 12 returning starters are some of the best players in the FCS at their positions, including quarterback Bryan Schor, running back Cardon Johnson (coming off an Achilles injury), left tackle Aaron Stinnie, defensive end Andrew Ankrah and safety Raven Greene. Georgia Tech's two-time rushing leader Marcus Marshall transferred into the program as well.

Not insignificantly, the coaching staff remained intact following James Madison's 14-1 season, including a perfect record in CAA Football. The Dukes open the season Sept. 2 at East Carolina.

"They've got to go out and take the approach just like they did last year," Houston said, "of setting our goals, putting in the work to have the opportunity to achieve our goals and then just take that one week at a time and thinking every week, every game is the biggest game of the year."

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