This past Saturday was a big day for Tribe football, as Green and Gold faithful got their first look at what will be the 2016 version of the William & Mary Tribe football team. Coach Jimmye Laycock, now entering his (insane) 37th season as head coach, is looking to build off of the team’s CAA Championship last season.
A big thank you to all of the Tribe fans that came out to the Spring Game! It truly was a beautiful day for football. And we want to offer a big congratulations to our new senior captains for next season: #8 Trey Reed, #23 Kendell Anderson, #16 Steve Cluley, and #93 Peyton Gryder! We know that they are not only quality athletes, but quality people off the field that W&Mers everywhere should be proud to have represent this fine institution.
So without further ado, here are our biggest takeaways from the 2016 Spring Game!
Steve Cluley, DeVonte Dedmon, and Kendell Anderson did not participate.
To the surprise of Tribe faithful, all three of W&M’s top offensive players were absent during the Spring Game. This begs the question: How healthy are these three superstars? We’re hoping and assuming that they’ll be ready and fired up for the start of Summer ball. It’s likely that Laycock and the coaching staff is giving their star players a pass after a long season. If that’s the case, then we’re all for it.
QB Jhalil Mosley is definitely in the running for the backup QB job going into summer camp.
Of the three quarterbacks who played today, we have to say that Jhalil Mosley looked the best. He finished the game 7-of-11 with 80 passing yards, including a 20-yard touchdown strike to sophomore Jack Armstrong. Sophomore Tommy McKee, who backed up Cluley last season, finished the game 8-of-13 with 70 passing yards.
To round out the backup QB battle, redshirt freshman Brandon Battle impressed, throwing a 20-yard touchdown to freshman wideout Grant Waxter, as well as adding a 27-yard dart to freshman Zach Sims across the middle. But Mosley looked strong. This will continue to be an interesting backup QB battle behind Cluley; competition is always a good thing. May the best man win!
The Wide Receiver Corps was thin.
The Tribe’s top four receivers from last season (DeVonte Dedmon, Christian Reeves, Kevin Hart, and Daniel Kuzjak) did not play in the Spring Game. While the Tribe lost Reeves to graduation, Dedmon, Hart, and Kuzjak were all on the sidelines watching. With most of the receivers injured and sitting out, Jack Armstrong shined as the number one receiver in the Spring Game, finishing with 6 catches for 63 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown grab from aforementioned QB Jhalil Mosley.
In addition to the Green and Gold’s offensive three-headed monster (QB Cluley, RB Anderson, WR Dedmon), we hope that the receiving corps can develop top to bottom and add yet another dimension to what already looks to be a potent offense in 2016.
As usual in Williamsburg, the running game looks like it will once again be very strong.
Although starting RB Kendell Anderson did not play, the Tribe running game looked very strong behind the Trio of Albert Funderburke, Brehon Britt, and Jonathan Dunn. The player that impressed the most was redshirt freshman Funderburke, who ended the game with 12 rushes for 85 yards (7.08 yards per carry). At 6’0″ 200 pounds, Funderburke is a tall running back with explosive power and speed.
Beyond Funderburke, both Britt and Dunn played well. Britt, a redshirt freshman (yes, he is the brother of former W&M basketball star Brandon Britt), finished the game with 10 carries for 48 yards (4.8 YPC). Junior Jonathan Dunn finished the game with 10 carries for 35 yards (3.5 YPC). Any way you look at it, the Tribe running game will absolutely be in good hands for the foreseeable future.
And we expect nothing less. In all, this running back trio ended the game with a combined 168 rushing yards on 32 carries (5.25 YPC). Impressive. Again, will be interesting to see which RB will take over the backup role come Fall. As we know, running backs are very prone to injury. So whoever backs up Anderson will be filling a crucial role in both a flex role, and a potential full-time starting gig. Again, may the best man win!
The Defensive Line impressed.
While the Defensive Line failed to consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season, the unit created havoc for W&M’s offensive line in the Spring Game. The starters finished with 4 of the Tribe’s 6 sacks on the day. Junior defensive end Xavier Roscoe finished with 3 sacks, while senior captain Peyton Gryder, senior linebacker Matt Vlissides, and redshirt freshman Nate Adkins added one apiece. Lets hope the Tribe can keep this pressure up for next season, as it was sorely missed last year. Any way you look at it, we like the direction the D-line is headed.
The Tribe looks like it will defend its moniker as the FCS’s DBU (Defensive Back University) this season.
Okay, so maybe we made up the part about W&M being the FCS’s DBU…Or did we? W&M has consistently produced NFL-caliber talent at the defensive back position, especially in recent years. Starting with Darren Sharper at the safety position, the program has gone on to produce three more stars in recent years: cornerback B.W. Webb (Tennessee Titans), safety Jerome Couplin III (Philadelphia Eagles), and soon-to-be-drafted safety/cornerback DeAndre Houston-Carson.
Picking up the mantle as one of the deepest position groups on the roster this season, the defensive backfield did not fail to impress in the Spring Game. Senior Captain Trey Reed forced a fumble early that was recovered by sophomore linebacker Josh Dulaney. Beyond Reed, sophomore cornerback Raeshawn Smith and junior safety Anthony Fullum each added 2 passes broken up. Once Aaron Swinton comes back from injury, this unit may compete with the Tribe’s offensive line for the deepest and best positional unit on the roster. We like the sound of that, especially with all the pass-happy teams in today’s CAA.
PS: Zable Stadium looks AWESOME.
Did anybody notice how great Zable is beginning to look? The glass is now up for both the Suite Level and the Press Box, and to say it looks great is actually an understatement. Zable was definitely in need of a renovation and we can’t wait to see what the new Zable will ultimately look like next season! And if you haven’t already, check out the incredible photo album that the VA Gazette put together, which includes pictures of the field from inside the new upper deck area, along with the press box and suite sections. Amazing.
PPS: The Tribe’s 2015 CAA Championship rings don’t look too shabby either.
The team also received their 2015 CAA Championship rings this past week, and boy, do they look pretty. How about we win this year’s outright? Roll Tribe.
While it’s hard to take away anything concrete from the Spring Game, especially as several players were hurt and not playing, and because it’s so dang early, the team still looked very good. The offense appeared to be playing with a faster tempo than usual, and hopefully when the trio of Cluley, Anderson, and Dedmon return, it will be even better. The defense, although losing key seniors to graduation a year ago, appeared to hold their own against the powerful Tribe offense. As always, we are beyond excited for next season, as the Tribe looks to defend its CAA Championship. Is it September 1st yet? We’re ready for NC State.
LET’S GO TRIBE!!!