WILLIAMSBURG – Don't expect William and Mary receiver DeVonte Dedmon to start plowing holes in opponents' defenses like the one tight end Andrew Caskin unlocked on Kendell Anderson's game-winning touchdown run last year against James Madison – or for Caskin to break any defenders' ankles on a juke-move – but the junior offensive duo hope their varied approaches are transferable.
Over the summer, the speedy and elusive Dedmon offered Caskin pointers on route-running and moves after the catch. In turn, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound receiver learned a little about blocking from the 6-5, 240-pound tight end.
Dedmon said, "I'm excited to see if he takes some of that from us practicing onto the field and maybe make a couple of guys miss."
Each will play vital roles within the Tribe's offense this season, which will kick off Sept. 1 at N.C. State.
Caskin, a Rockville, Md. product, was a preseason All-CAA selection after collecting 360 receiving yards with two touchdowns in 2015.
Dedmon increased his productivity significantly from his freshman campaign to last year, finishing 2015 with a team-high 51 catches for 588 yards and eight touchdowns. The former Warhill star was also named CAA Special Teams Player of the Year a season ago, averaging 25 yards per kick return with 575 total yards to go along with one kick return and one punt return for touchdown.
"Both of them are good players," William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said. "Both of them are the type of players you want to get the ball in their hands."
Dedmon's solid 2015 campaign wasn't enough to land him on the CAA's preseason list of top players, voted on by head coaches and media relations directors. Rhode Island running back Harold Cooper (23.7 KR, 569 KR yards, 1 TD) earned a selection instead, with kicker Nick Dorka and punter Hunter Windmuller of William and Mary taking the other special teams slots.
"This year, I'm just ready to be part of this team and do what I have to do to help this team win," Dedmon said. "Accolades can come and go. What I'm going to remember down the road is this family that I have right here."
"It's nice," William and Mary quarterback Steve Cluley said of preseason distinction, "but the one that means the most is at postseason…. I think he'll just continue to grow and improve his overall football abilities and just keep growing as an athlete and as a football player. It's exciting to see that and I'm excited to see what he can do this year."
Cluley won't have a shortage of targets to throw to. Senior Kevin Hart (287 yards, 3 TDs), junior Daniel Kuzjak (479 yards) and sophomore Jack Armstrong (292 yards) all return to a unit that most notably lost Christian Reeves (424 yards, 2 TDs) to graduation.
Sophomore Isaiah Kinder, a converted scout team quarterback, and newcomers Jalen Christian (5-9, 177), Jordan Lowery (5-11, 190) and Anthony Mague (6-3, 207) round out the other key receivers. Christian is a redshirt freshman and University of South Carolina transfer while Lowery, of Roanoke, and Mague, of New Jersey, are both rookies.
The new players join a group that worked to form an identity last season after the 2014 departure of Tre McBride, now about to enter his second season with the Tennessee Titans.
Dedmon said the receivers last season felt like they had to step up and work as a unit to compensate for McBride's loss, led by Tribe receivers coach Winston October.
"We did really well last year, I think," Dedmon said. "I think this year we can build on what we did last year and improve."
Dedmon and Caskin bonded prior to the start of fall practice entering their freshman campaigns. Each suffered knee injuries as high school seniors, with Caskin's ACL tear causing him to miss his entire final season at Georgetown Prep.
They shared a "Let's show them what we can do after our injury" mentality.
Since then, Dedmon tried to impart to Caskin how to run more creative routes.
The intangible aspects of Caskin's game may be most beneficial to Dedmon if quality is going to be sent back. Caskin, who became William and Mary's only true freshman to start at tight end since 1989, is noted for being a fiery competitor who brings it on every rep in practice or down in a game.
"We're real good friends," Caskin said. "I think he's become a great dude and he's turning into a leader. He's becoming more vocal."
Perhaps no player on William and Mary's roster appreciates the renovation of Zable Stadium more than Dedmon, the only local product on the team. He grew up playing in youth games and going to camps on the grounds, which opened in 1935.
The new upper deck on the west side stands and the carpet-like FieldTurf Revolution 360 makes for a "different vibe," as Dedmon described it, and adds to the unbridled excitement he has for his receiving corps in 2016.
"The feeling is just something different this year around here," Dedmon said. "I love it."
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.