“He’s a great young man. We didn’t want him to leave,” South Carolina Head Coach Will Muschamp said. “Unfortunately things happen sometimes. I really appreciate how he’s handling the situation. He’s handling it like a man would. I’m proud of him. We’re going to do everything we can do to help him transfer and get to a place closer to home. That’s where he needs to be at this time.” Who is Coach Muschamp talking about in this article by The State? It’s none other than the Tribe’s newest stud receiver, Jalen Christian.
Before we analyze the Tribe’s most recent pick up, we just wanted to say: it’s a great time to be a Tribe football fan. The team exceeded expectations last year by winning the Colonial Athletic Association regular season title, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Playoffs and finishing the year ranked 12th in the country. The Tribe would then go on to see superstar DeAndre Houston-Carson drafted in the 6th round of the NFL Draft.
Following Houston-Carson were Luke Rhodes, Tyler Claytor, and Christian Reeves who all received NFL Rookie Mini Camp invites (with Rhodes signing as an Undrafted Free Agent). And to put the cherry on top, Zable Stadium is beginning to come to form with state of the art renovations that will bring revitalized energy to the Tribe faithful. It has certainly been one heck of a year for Tribe football. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed by those following the program, including big-time recruits.
Jalen Christian: Welcome to the Tribe
Just this week, W&M netted one of those big-time recruits in redshirt freshman wide receiver Jalen Christian. Christian (5’9″, 177) was a four star recruit coming out of Damascus High School (MD), drawing constant comparisons to speedster Stefon Diggs of the Minnesota Vikings (and the Maryland Terrapins). He was a two-way, four-year starter for Damascus, checking in at receiver, defensive back, and kick/punt returner.
According to Scout.com,
“Christian is a dynamic athlete who can play receiver or cornerback. He is elusive with the ball in his hands, accelerates to puncture the defense and has the speed to finish plays. He is a good route runner and is strong with his hands. Defensively, Christian has looseness in his hips to turn and cover and his change of direction is a strength. He needs to get stronger and become more physical, but that will come in time.”
In high school, Christian was a highly sought-after recruit. After just his freshman year, he already held an offer from Ohio State. When it was all said and done, he received a truly insane 25+ offers, including several offers from BIG, notable Division I schools, such as:
Christian was ranked the 4th best player in Maryland, the 29th best wide receiver in the country, and the No. 252 overall recruit by ESPN. ….Need we say any more?
When asked about William and Mary in a recent interview for the Daily Press, Christian said “I’m excited to go to William and Mary, it’s close to my grandparents’ house because they live in Newport News. Great academic school and a rich tradition.” In that same article, Head Coach Jimmye Laycock offered his opinion:
“You know, we’re not a whole lot into the transfer routine,” Laycock said. “You have to check a lot of boxes for us to deal with a transfer. They have to be transferring for the right reasons, and they have to be a very good student. “It was a situation where he wanted to get back closer to home. Obviously, he’s a very good student, and that put us in the mix. One thing led to another, and he made the decision.”
“I don’t like to put a burden on anybody, and there’s always an adjustment period to see how things work out, but I hope so.”
We like Jalen’s chances. This marks the first time in a long time that William and Mary has landed a four star recruit (who was the last one? leave a comment!). But the best part isn’t just that he’s a four-star recruit, but that he has FOUR years of eligibility left to play for the Tribe. And since he is transferring from FBS to FCS, he doesn’t have to sit out a year, and can play right away. Check out Christian’s incredible highlight reel below to get a taste of what Tribe fans can expect this Fall. And we thought we couldn’t get any more excited for Tribe football this year. Wow.
Jalen’s fit on the Tribe Offense
William and Mary’s potentially potent offense already looked very strong for this coming year. But it just got even better. Across the board, the unit lacks glaring holes, and is deep at just about every position. Adding a four-star receiver makes the unit that much better. On paper, the Tribe offense appears to be the best in recent memory, and may just have a shot at some records in 2016.
With the Tribe’s recent implementation of the spread offense, the Green and Gold will really be able to run and gun the ball all over the place. The Offense will be led by three-year starter, third team all-CAA selection, and captain QB Steve Cluley. He will be handing the ball off to a first team all-CAA selection and captain RB Kendell Anderson, who rushed for 1,418 yards while punching the ball in 16 times last season.
Beyond the 1-2 punch of Cluley and Anderson, the Tribe’s offensive line is skilled, battle-tested, and boasts an excellent mix of experience and talent. The line returns all but one of its starters from last season (Captain Andrew Jones), and includes three third team all-CAA selections in Jerry Ugokwe, Connor Hilland, and Chris Durant, as well as an experienced guard in Dom Martinelli. It is safe to say that this line will keep Cluley upright and create some monster holes for Anderson this season.
But whom will Steve Cluley be throwing to? The tight end position looks bright, as the Tribe returns second team all-CAA selection Andrew Caskin, a player who is getting better every year (and game) for the Tribe. Oh yeah, and W&M also returns an All-American and first team all-CAA kicker in Nick Dorka, who can convert FGs up to 50 yards.
Add all of that to the fact that the Tribe was already returning four of its top five receivers from a season ago, and now adds Jalen Christian to the fold. Returning receivers include seasoned studs such as DeVonte Dedmon, Kevin Hart, Daniel Kuzjak, and Jack Armstrong. Talk about locked and loaded. Lookout CAA, the Tribe will put up big points this season. Yes, we meant to write that in bold.
At first glance, Jalen Christian strongly resembles the Tribe’s current #1 WR DeVonte Dedmon. The comparison comes as both are incredibly fast, athletic, and shifty players who can play multiple positions; the two are also eerily similar in regards to height and weight as Christian checks in at 5’9″ 177 and Dedmon at 5’10” 185.
As everyone surely remembers, Dedmon was CAA Special Teams Player of the Year and a second team all-CAA selection. Therefore, if Christian (only a freshman next season) plays anywhere near the level of Dedmon, opposing CAA defensive coordinators won’t be getting much sleep the week they see William and Mary on the schedule.
We here at the W&M Sports Blog see Jalen Christian fitting in very well opposite Dedmon. Too often last season teams would double up coverage on Dedmon, making him less effective. Now, teams will have to pick their poison on whom to double team, leaving either Dedmon or Christian in a 1 on 1 matchup. Add that to Cluley’s experience and big arm, and we like the prospects of the Tribe putting up a lot of points this coming season.
Christian also has the ability to play a role in the kick/punt return role, where he excelled in high school. Adding a 1-2 punch in the return game with Dedmon will make the Tribe Special Teams even better, making it hard for opposing kickers to avoid both Dedmon and Christian.
It is always great to see the Tribe land a big time transfer, especially one who has four years of eligibility, and happens to be from the SEC. Summer camp is right around the corner, and we cannot wait for the season to begin. Please vote in our poll below about the prospects of the upcoming season. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!