FOOTBALL IS BACK!!! Spring football officially kicked off two weeks ago, and the players are getting back into the swing of things. Don’t forget, the Spring Game is April 16th! As we inch closer and closer to the Fall, there are plenty of things to look at this offseason. Not the least of which is Zable’s new UPPER DECK (check out the most up to date photos here)–but we’ll save that discussion for another time. For now, Coach Laycock and the boys look locked, loaded, and ready to get back at it in 2016.
In this preview, we highlight some of the key things to watch on the offensive side of the ball, giving a position by position breakdown of key battles, incoming freshman, and more. Look out for our article next week, which will highlight the defense! Roll Tribe.
How healthy is QB Steve Cluley?
The last time we saw Steve Cluley, he was getting beat up pretty badly by the Richmond defense. He left the final game of the season early after getting leveled on a big hit, as backup Tommy McKee entered in relief. For the sake of Tribe faithful, we hope that Cluley is completely healthy, or at the very least that he will be healthy come the first game of the season against NC State. As long as he’s healthy, there should be absolutely no controversy as to who the start will be this coming year. A two-year starter turned senior should have no problem locking up the job.
Who will be the backup QB?
If last season were any indication, there is no clear backup quarterback for the Tribe. Tommy McKee, a redshirt sophomore next season, appears to be the front runner, as he saw action in the aforementioned playoff game against Richmond, going 3/3 for 43 yards. He also saw action in 3 games last season as a reserve, putting in limited minutes.
While all signs seemingly point to McKee as the backup, it is certainly not a guarantee. Last season, rising redshirt junior Jhalil Mosley saw action in a game against Hampton, and was used primarily as a running threat. Perhaps if Jhalil can prove to Coach Laycock that he is a dangerous dual-threat QB, he will differentiate himself with an added dimension over McKee, and put himself in a position to lock up the backup position.
Finally, don’t count out redshirt freshman Brandon Battle from becoming second in command to Steve Cluley. Battle was a highly touted recruit out of North Point High School in Waldorf, Maryland–as he held offers from several schools, including JMU, Albany, and Toledo. He has all the measurables, checking in at a tall 6’3″ and 185 pounds (though we’d like to see him get closer to the 200 pound mark). For comparison, Steve Cluley is 6’3″ and 215 pounds. If Battle studied the playbook hard last year during his redshirt campaign, he certainly has a chance to win the backup job.
What is WR DeVonte Dedmon’s Ceiling?
DeVonte Dedmon had a very impressive campaign this season, ending the season with 588 yards and 8 touchdowns, as well as 115 rushing yards, in just 12 games. And let’s not forget–he was also named the CAA Special Teams Player of the Year after averaging an insane 25 yards per kickoff return, 16.4 yards per punt return, and adding two special teams touchdowns. Dedmon was a threat every time he touched the ball, and we think he can be even better in his junior campaign. And when taking into account that this will be Dedmon’s last year with QB Steve Cluley, the only starting QB he has ever known, this makes it all the more important for Dedmon to take advantage. We believe he will, and (spoiler alert!) think he will make 1st team all-CAA this season (knock on wood).
Who will start opposite Dedmon?
The Tribe has 3 wide receivers capable of starting opposite Dedmon in Daniel Kuzjak, Jack Armstrong, and Kevin Hart, all of whom saw plenty of in-game action last season. Kuzjak led the bunch in receiving with 479 yards on the season. Armstrong followed with 292 yards. And Hart added 287 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Certainly, a case can be made for any of the above receivers to be the number 2 receiver. to Dedmon. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top after Spring Ball. Those who remember last year will fondly remember Kuzjak breaking out and earning himself a role. Who will it be this year? Could Kuzjak provide another solid performance? Regardless who gets the nod as the number 2, all three players will see significant time in 2016, as Steve Cluley will have no shortage of options to throw to next season.
Who will backup star RB Kendell Anderson?
The Tribe, as usual, has a medley of talent at the running back position. Although the team loses stalwart Mikal Abdul-Saboor to graduation, the team retains Kendell Anderson, as well as junior Jonathan Dunn, and redshirt freshmen Brehon Britt and Albert Funderburke.
It will be interesting to see who wins this backup competition. William and Mary is known for using two running backs in its offense, so whoever backs up Anderson will see a hefty role in the offense–especially if Anderson goes down with injury. Dunn saw action in 11 games last season, finishing with 26 carries for 91 yards (3.5 per rush). While neither Britt nor Funderburke saw any action last season, both were impressive three star recruits coming out of high school who have plenty of talent. No matter who backs up Kendell Anderson this season, the Tribe will be strong in the backfield for the foreseeable future.
Is TE Andrew Caskin the best Tribe tight end in recent memory, or is it still too early to tell?
Now, we are in no place to make this claim–especially with the likes of Tribe greats Mike Leach and Alex Gottlieb having paved the way for this position in Williamsburg. However, we would love to hear from Tribe faithful in the below comment section on the matter. Caskin, now a rising junior, was the only W&M true freshman to start at the tight end position since 1989 (records of starters is not available prior to 1989).
In his sophomore season, the big bodied Caskin (6’5″, 240 pounds) finished the year with 34 catches for 360 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was second on the team in receptions (34), and was a second team all-CAA selection in just his true sophomore season. Caskin is continuing to develop in Offensive Coordinator Kevin Roger’s offense, and his role continues to grow. We hope to see even more from Caskin in his junior year, as we think he not only can be a red zone threat, but also a between-the-40s player for the Tribe.
Bonus: What is the deepest group on the William and Mary roster?
William and Mary’s offensive line figures to be a problem for opposing defenses this season. It returns 4 of its starters from last season, including 3 all-CAA third team selections. While center and team captain Andrew Jones will be sorely missed, Kevin Jennings (senior) figures to be a capable replacement. Jennings saw action in all 13 games last season, and although he tended to come in when the Tribe was in a goal line set, the game experience should prove valuable for him this season.
in addition to Jennings, the Tribe returns its left and right guards in Connor Hilland (junior) and Dom Martinelli (senior), as well as its left and right tackles in Chris Durant (junior) and Jerry Ugokwe (senior). If this seasoned unit can remain healthy, it really does appear to be the best in the CAA, which will do wonders both protecting senior Steve Cluley and creating holes for Kendell Anderson.
Beyond the starters, William and Mary currently boasts 18 offensive lineman on the roster, and should be far and away the deepest position group on the team in 2016.
The offense figures to be a key component to the success of the Tribe in 2016, especially as the W&M defense lost so many starters to graduation this past Spring. We think this unit can really thrive and put up huge numbers in both Cluley and Anderson’s senior year. As always, thanks for reading! ROLL TRIBE!!!