Jimmye Laycock has been on campus longer than many of the buildings have at William & Mary. The veteran has been coaching the Tribe since 1980 and is the longest-tenured coach in Division I football. He has led the school to 24 winning seasons and 12 trips to the FCS playoffs during his time with the Tribe.
But if William & Mary has any chance to finish the 2017 season over .500, it will need to find a more polished and productive quarterback than Steve Cluley.
2016 William & Mary Football Season In Review
It’s hard to consider last season anything other than a disappointment for the Tribe. William & Mary was picked to finish second in the Colonial Athletic Association in preseason media polls at the conference’s media day. There was a lot to like with Cluley being a three-year starter and the team winning a share of the conference title in 2015.
All of that went out the window after the Tribe played their first conference game. William & Mary hosted lowly Elon and gave the Phoenix their lone CAA win in 2016. The Tribe were ranked No. 8 heading into the game, but Cluley’s three-interception performance doomed the team to defeat and kicked off a three-game losing streak that eradicated any hope of the Tribe returning to the postseason.
Cluley was unable to find much success throughout 2016. Over the course of the first eight games, he had just seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was better in the team’s final three contests, but by then it was too little, too late.
In the loss to Elon, William & Mary also saw its best offensive weapon go down for the year. Albert Funderburke was on pace to have a big season. Through four games, he was averaging 7.5 yards per carry and had reached the end zone four times. However, he tore his ACL in the waning minutes of the first half against Elon and wasn’t seen again. Kendell Anderson played well in his stead, running for over 1,000 yards, but he wasn’t as explosive as Funderburke.
The run defense was a major problem for the Tribe last season. William & Mary was unable to stop anyone on the ground, allowing 5.1 yards per carry as the 102nd-ranked rush defense in the country.
2017 William & Mary Football Season Preview
This quarterback competition is wide open. There are five players vying for the starting job, and Layock has yet to tip his hand on who he prefers. Many of the local newspapers think that true freshman Shon Mitchell has a legitimate chance to start after graduating early and joining the team in January. If he performs well enough in fall practice, don’t be surprised if he ends up as the starter.
The running back situation is up in the air, too. Funderburke still hasn’t returned from the ACL injury that cut short his 2016 campaign. Without him, there is no clear-cut No. 1 option at the position. Aside from him, the leading returning running back has just 14 career rushing yards. If Funderburke can’t play, that will be a huge setback.
On offense, the only known quantities are wide receiver DeVonte Dedmon and tight end Andrew Caskin. Dedmon was a first-team preseason all-conference at CAA media days, and Caskin is considered the second- or third-best tight end in the conference.
Defensively, the Tribe need to be able to stop the run. The CAA features some of the best rushing attacks in FCS, and William & Mary won’t compete without being able to shut them down. Only one starting linebacker returns from last season, leaving more questions than answers in the unit.
2017 William & Mary Football Schedule
September 2: William & Mary at Virginia
September 9: William & Mary at Norfolk State
September 16: William & Mary vs. Bucknell
September 30: William & Mary vs. Stony Brook
October 7: William & Mary at Elon
October 14: William & Mary at Delaware
October 21: William & Mary vs. James Madison
October 28: William & Mary at Maine
November 4: William & Mary vs. New Hampshire
November 11: William & Mary vs. Towson
November 18: William & Mary at Richmond
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
The good news for William & Mary is that the school doesn’t have to play Villanova or Albany, two of the better teams in the conference.
However, the Tribe are in worse shape than a lot of the teams considered to be playoff contenders in the conference. William & Mary will likely be underdogs on the road against Delaware, Maine and Richmond. In particular, the Maine game comes at a terrible time, as it is sandwiched in between James Madison and New Hampshire. That’s a good time to take the Black Bears in FCS Pick ‘Em Contests.