There were a lot of firsts in the 2019 edition of the Tribe’s annual Spring Game: it was the first Spring Game since 1980 without Jimmye Laycock at the helm, it was the first one ever played at night under Zable’s lights, AND it was the first Spring Game that wasn’t streamed online (since, we believe, Tribe TV officially began).
But this last point is perhaps unsurprising — new Head Coach Mike London doesn’t want opponents to see any film of the Tribe’s new “GoGo” offense or the Green and Gold’s new defensive schemes. Makes total sense to us. Below, we outline some takeaways from this year’s game. Roll Tribe Roll.
First Look at the GoGo Offense
The GoGo offense is going to be fun to watch this year; led by new Tribe Offensive Coordinator Brennan Marion, the unit is already running (literally) like a well-oiled machine. On 29 carries, sophomore Owen Wright and senior Albert Funderburke carved up the defense, scampering for 238 total yards (averaging 8.2 yards per rush). Wright was most impressive, rushing 14 times for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns. Funderburke also impressed, running by defenders for 109 yards on 15 carries.
How do we explain this?
The question is: should we attribute the running game’s success to the Tribe’s new GoGo offense, or should we attribute their success to the Tribe’s lack of run defense? After all, William & Mary gave up 176 yards per game on the ground just one season ago. The truth might actually be a bit of both, but it is nonetheless good to see W&M’s two stud running backs shine.
So what about the Quarterback position?
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: no single W&M quarterback received the majority of first team reps during the Spring Game, and it appears that there’s no starting QB just yet — yes, despite the team going through an offseason of Spring practices. Perhaps more interestingly, William & Mary recently (on Tuesday April 16th) announced that a grad transfer QB, Kilton Anderson, is coming to W&M — and he’s immediately eligible to play. Wow.
Digging deeper into the Tribe’s newest transfer, Anderson checks in at 6’2″, 205 pounds; his height and weight already makes him the second tallest QB on the roster, behind only Brandon Battle. But that’s obviously not the best part: he played in 8 games as a freshman at Fresno State before transferring to Coastal Carolina (an FCS power in recent seasons, recently turned FBS), where he played for the last two years. Last season, Anderson appeared in 9 games, throwing for 1010 yards and 8 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and a finishing with a 138.4 QB rating. He also rushed for 251 yards and 1 touchdown.
Since it appears that no QBs significantly stood out in the Spring (though Ted Hefter reportedly had a strong showing), perhaps Kilton Anderson will be the guy for the Tribe in 2019. But questions still abound.
Is this an insurance policy for the new coaching regime, in case one of our incumbents doesn’t pan out? Following multiple Spring practices, has the coaching staff already decided that they prefer Anderson to the rest of the pack? And if that’s the case, will Anderson even have enough time in the system before taking the reins?
Time will tell, but we really like the pickup from London and hope that Anderson can get into the playbook right away to learn that GoGo offense quickly. As hard as its been for W&M to gain any sort of long-term answer at the position in quite some time, we’ll take anything we can get. And fast.
How did the Defense do?
The Defense played well in this one, notching two interceptions, a forced fumble, 3 sacks, and 11 tackles for loss. Despite sporting a lackluster run defense in the Spring Game, the Tribe’s Green Swarm will likely be the strength of this W&M team next year. The front seven, in particular, is returning stars in DTs Bill Murray and Will Kiely, as well as LBs Nate Atkins and Arman Jones. While the unit might be a bit thin at CB, seniors Corey Parker and Isaiah Laster make up what might just be the best safety duo in the CAA.
But as mentioned, if the Green and Gold wants to be successful this year, it will need to get better at stopping the run. Teams have consistently overpowered the Tribe on the ground in recent years, seemingly rushing for 150+ yards/game more often than not. To say the least, W&M absolutely has to find a way to stop the run in the CAA, a league that produces top FCS running back prospects each year. The answer could come through London’s new 3-4 scheme, which would be well positioned to take advantage of a strong linebacking corps. Whatever the answer, London and co. should have a serious plan in place.
Which players were named Captains?
As is tradition, W&M announced its captains at the end of the Spring Game. The captains were selected by way of a team vote: linebacker Nate Atkins, defensive tackle Bill Murray, defensive back Corey Parker, and left tackle Mark Williamson. Atkins became just the 12th player in W&M’s 126 year history to earn the honor multiple times (with fellow linebacker Luke Rhodes recently earning the honor).
To say the least, we think the players got it right with these selections. The defensive trio of Atkins, Murray, and Parker lead the Green Swarm, and are vocal leaders who can also lead by example. On the offensive side of the ball, we love the pick of Williamson, who donated bone marrow back in 2016; if you haven’t read the story, check it out here. The Tribe should be more than set in the leadership department in 2019.
What should we expect this season?
On the surface, the Tribe’s schedule this season is a bit daunting. In out of conference play, W&M will face off against two FBS teams (UVA and ECU) — as well as two Patriot League teams. The matchup against ECU will be interesting, as former JMU Coach Mike Houston is currently the 1st-year Head Coach of the Pirates. But after OOC play, it doesn’t get any easier, as W&M will run the gauntlet in CAA play.
It’ll be interesting to see how Mike London’s team does in his first year at the helm. We aren’t expecting too much, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tribe pull off an upset here or there. And let’s not forget, last year’s W&M team was just one game away from finishing with an above-.500 CAA record last year. W&M was also the only CAA team to beat Maine during the regular season — so we know the potential is certainly there. And if the newly implemented GoGo offense is as good as advertised, and if the defense can show that it can consistently stop the run, Tribe fans might be in for a surprise this season.
LET’S GO TRIBE.