2019 W&M Football Preview: Defense

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The Tribe’s defense will take the field with newfound life in 2019. [photo via Bob Keroack, tribeathletics.com]
Following our article last week, profiling the 2019 version of W&M’s offense, we now turn to the defense. And very much like the offense, the W&M defense has plenty to prove this season.

But with several stalwart players returning at all three levels of the defense, the Tribe finds itself more than ready to improve upon last season’s numbers.

Last Season’s Unit: Key Stats

As alluded to above, last season wasn’t pretty — both for the W&M offense and for the defense. Among the major defensive categories listed below, the Green and Gold found itself ranked no higher than 5th, and as low as 11th (out of 12 teams).

  • Scoring Defense:
    opponents averaged 26.2 PPG (8 of 12 CAA teams)
  • Rushing Defense:
    opponents averaged 176.3 Rushing Yards (11th of 12)
  • Passing Defense:
    opponents averaged 190 Passing Yards (5th of 12)
  • Total Defense:
    opponents averaged 366 Total Yards (9th of 12)

With that in mind, there’s nowhere to go but up. But who’s in charge? Which man is tasked with leading this unit to the promised land? Here’s a hint:

Vincent Brown
Hot take: #1 I don’t want to fight him, and #2 are those astroturf shoes?

Name that Man? Vincent Brown, Of Course!

If you weren’t sure who was pictured above, we don’t blame you — but it’s time to learn here and now — because he’s the new face of the W&M defense.

Vincent Brown Career Accolades

  • Former New England Patriots Linebacker (1988-1995)
  • 3x NFL All-Pro (1991, 1992, 1993)
  • Played under Bill Parcells in New England
  • Last Season: Defensive Coordinator of the Howard Bison
  • This Season: Defensive Coordinator of the W&M Tribe

Brown will bring a new standard to the defense this year — known as a hard-nosed linebacker with a knack for the ball, Tribe fans should expect a varied defensive front with multiple looks.

Given Brown’s experience playing at the highest level from the linebacker position, it would seem that the Tribe’s incumbent linebackers, e.g. Nate Atkins and Arman Jones, are primed for career seasons in the ‘Burg. 

And after a season that saw the Tribe rank 2nd-worst in the league against the run last year, that should be welcome news to Green and Gold faithful this year.

What is the Tribe’s Defensive Philosophy?

Our guy Jay Colley recently interviewed Vincent Brown on his defensive philosophy, shedding light on the Tribe’s new system (if you don’t want to spend the 5 minutes to watch, we’ve consolidated Brown’s key quotes from the interview below).

Key Quotes: Vincent Brown

  • “We build the defense around the talent that we have.”
  • “We are multiple in what we do — [the 3-4 defense] is just one aspect of what we do. We like it because it provides balance…we are very multiple and will build the defense around the capabilities of the young men in our program.”
  • “[The 3-4 defense] allows you to get a little more speed on the field…it allows you to adjust to the formations that you get…we like it, but it’s just one aspect of what we do.”
  • “[The Defensive Line] has really been the strength of the defense the last couple of years…we’re excited about what that position means for the defense.”
  • “The biggest thing that we’re trying to emphasize right now is our effort…it’s not going to be the scheme, it’s going to be the culture that we’re creating that’s going to allow us to play championship-caliber defense.”
  • “Safety is really a strength for us in the back-end.”
  • “[One phrase to know about this year’s defense is]: Possessed effort to the ball.”

5 W&M Players to Watch

As mentioned, the Tribe returns several key players across all levels of the defense this season — along the defensive line, at the linebacker spot, and most notably at the safety position. Here are 5 players to watch heading into Week 1 against Lafayette.

Linebacker Nate Atkins 

Nate Atkins enters his senior season ready to produce at an elite level. [photo via tribeathletics.com]
  • 2x Team Captain (last season and now this season)
  • Earned starts in all 10 games last season
  • Led the team in tackles (68) for the second consecutive year (going for 3 in a row this season)
  • Finished the season with 5.5 tackles for loss, two pass break ups, an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery
  • Earned CAA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll distinction in 2018

Cornerback Corey Parker 

Corey Parker will look to earn All-CAA honors for the third straight season in 2019. [photo via tribeathletics.com]
  • Earned All-CAA Third Team honors for the second consecutive season in 2018
  • Started the first two games at safety before moving to cornerback for the final eight contests
  • Ranked tied for seventh in the CAA in pass break ups per game (1.00) and tied for fourth in fumbles recovered (2)
  • Finished the season with 42 tackles, 10 pass break ups, 2.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, an interception, and a forced fumble
  • Earned CAA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll distinction 

Safety Isaiah Laster 

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Isaiah Laster ranked #3 in the CAA in interceptions last season, as the ballhawk will look to add to his career total this year. [photo via tribeathletics.com]
  • 2018 All-CAA Second Team selection
  • Ranked tied for 3rd in the CAA in interceptions (4), while his 0.4 INT per game ranked second in the CAA
  • Ranked second on the team in tackles (65)
  • Totaled five pass break ups, 1.5 tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery
  • Honored as the CAA Co-Defensive Player of the Week and earned STATS FCS FCS National Player of the Week Honorable Mention accolades after totaling seven tackles with two interceptions in a 2018 win at Villanova

Defensive Tackle Bill Murray 

Bill Murray comes into the season as one of the most talented defensive linemen in the CAA, and perhaps the FCS. [photo via tribeathletics.com]
  • 2018 All-CAA Second Team selection
  • Earned starts in all 10 games in 2018
  • Ranked tied for fourth nationally with three blocked kicks
  • Led the team in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (9.5)
  • Also totaled 48 tackles, three pass break ups, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery
  • Finished the season with 3.0 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss during the last four games
  • Earned CAA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll distinction 

Linebacker Arman Jones 

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Alongside teammate Nate Atkins, Arman Jones is poised for a career year in tackles in 2019. [photo via tribeathletics.com]
  • Earned starts in all 10 games in 2018
  • Finished the season with 59 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, an interception, and two touchdowns
  • Posted a 90-yard pick-six in the win against No. 16/20 Maine, marking the third-longest pick-six in school history


This unit has the tools in place to improve upon last season’s numbers, and with new leadership at the helm, the Tribe should benefit from an infusion of new energy and life in 2019.

But time will tell, as the Green and Gold was picked to finish 10 out of 12 teams this season — a ranking they’re sure to use as fuel for the fire this year.



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