VMI’s top guys are back, and looking to build on playoff run in the spring

VMI AthleticsKris Thornton left for JMU after a 79-catch season in 2018, and caught a TD pass in the Dukes’ 31-24 playoff win over VMI in April.

Alex Ramsey entered the transfer portal after rushing for 1,326 yards and 22 TDs in 2019.

VMI football is used to losing top guys to the transfer portal.

The good news after the playoff run in the spring: Jake Herres, the SoCon Offensive Player of the Year, and Stone Snyder, the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year, are back.

“VMI has given me a lot of opportunities and milestones to just make a lot of real brothers here that just don’t want to leave. It was never really an option. I’m just going to finish it here and see what happens after that,” said Herres, a 6’4” senior wideout, who had 80 catches, 972 receiving yards and eight TDs in the spring season.

“When I committed here, I made a promise to myself that I’m going to I’m going to finish it out, I’m going to get the degree,” said Snyder, a 6’3” junior linebacker who led the SoCon with 11.0 tackles per game.

“This school is different than other schools. You know, you make actual brothers for life. Everyone always says that, but like, the team is here, your brothers, and I’m not going to leave them,” Snyder said.

Not only are both back, but they were back early, considering the late end to the spring season, necessitated by the move of the 2020 season to the first half of the 2021 calendar year.

Each took a week off after the playoff loss, and then returned to Lexington to get ready for the fall, focusing on conditioning and strength training.

Snyder will anchor a defensive unit that made a dramatic improvement from 2019. The 2019 Keydets D gave up 37.8 points and 494.8 yards per game on the way to a 5-7 VMI finish.

The spring 2021 defense allowed a stingy 21.8 points and 365.4 yards per game.

Herres is the focal point of the offense as a matchup nightmare in VMI’s four- and five-receiver sets. He had double-digit receptions in four of VMI’s last five games, including 13 for 171 yards and a TD in the playoff game.

You can expect that Herres will be a focal point of opposing defensive coordinators this fall, but Herres said he’s not worried about that at all.

“If I can be a decoy and take another defender out of that picture, and the other guys work one-on-one, I have full confidence in the rest of them to do a better job,” Herres said. “You know, Chance Knox, Leroy Thomas, Michael Jackson, all of them, they can they can win their one-on-one matchups, and if they can all win one-on-one matchups, they can’t put two on me, so I think that makes it better for everybody.”

The players of the year are back, and they’re looking to build on what they did in the spring.

“My sophomore year, we went 5-7, and that was considered a good year for VMI. And just after that, we come in the spring and win the conference championship, just like that,” Herres said. “I think once we all got that little taste of what winning was, like, we didn’t want to let it go back to what it was like my freshman year when we went 1-10. And so just that little bit of taste of winning is, it just feels good. And I’m just excited to keep it going.”

“Before, Samford, Furman, all of them, they had the target on their backs. Now, you know, we’re the team that everyone has on their schedule, you know, like, you got to worry about VMI. So, yes, it’s a change, but we’re ready for it, we’re excited,” Snyder said.

Story by Chris Graham

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