Raphael Ortiz, Jhalil Mosley, Steve Cluley, Christian Brumbaugh. One of those quarterbacks will start the first game of the season in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech. But who will get the call?
If you assumed the William & Mary Spring game would provide an answer, you were mistaken. Senior Raphael Ortiz was not able to throw and continues to nurse a serious shoulder injury that has plagued him since last season. Sophomore Steve Cluley played, but with a reported strained ankle. And Redshirt Freshman Jhalil Mosley was also not able to partake in the game due to a foot injury. The only serious contender for the QB position that received reps in the Spring game was Christian Brumbaugh.
If all of this sounds familiar, it should. Instability at the quarterback position has been the norm for the Tribe in the last three seasons since winning the CAA title in 2010.
This instability at the game’s most important position is something new for long-time Tribe fans. Under the tutelage of long-time head coach and former quarterback himself, Jimmye Laycock has been known for bringing in and coaching up quarterbacks who have consistently led the Tribe to winning seasons.
Unfortunately, the last few seasons have been ones to forget. With multiple key players in place the last several years, such as Jonathan Grimes at running back (now with the Houston Texans) and B.W. Webb at cornerback (now with the Dallas Cowboys), lack of consistency from the quarterback has held the Tribe from FCS playoff contention.
So who will get the start this year? Going into this offseason, I still truly believe that Raphael Ortiz will be the starter—that is, if he can overcome the injury bug in time to gain valuable summer camp reps and get back into gear.
Any Tribe fan lucky enough to watch the W&M vs. JMU game in 2012 will fondly remember Ortiz’s spectacular night both on the ground and in the air. In the JMU game, Ortiz flashed his ability to stretch the defense with his arm and showed the ability to execute designed run plays.
Although the Tribe finished with a 2-9 record in 2012, the team brought #4 ranked James Madison to their knees, forcing double overtime. If not for a very poor showing from the field goal unit, the Tribe, led by Ortiz, would have knocked out this #4 ranked JMU team on their home turf—instead, the Tribe lost 26-27 after a failed 2-point conversion attempt to finish the game.
Of all Tribe quarterbacks on the roster, Ortiz is the only one to have started a collegiate game; Ortiz has 5 total collegiate starts. While this is a small sample size, as a Redshirt Senior, Ortiz has the most experience, presents a dual-threat option, and has proven he can get the job done.
Only time will tell if Ortiz’s shoulder can heal up in time for the game at Virginia Tech on August 30th. If it does, the Tribe may have found its key ingredient in assembling a dangerous CAA team. Keep checking the WM Sports Blog for updates throughout the summer. Go Tribe!