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Quarterback William and Mary's focal point in spring drills

Dave Johnson
W&M has five potential candidates to replace three-year starter Steve Cluley at quarterback.

WILLIAMSBURG — The last time William and Mary faced this situation, Steve Cluley stepped forward to start 35 consecutive games. But for now, minus an offensive coordinator, W&M coach Jimmye Laycock is thinking in more immediate terms.

Cluley has graduated, so the quarterback position has been the focal point of spring practice. Five potential replacements, only one of whom has taken a snap in a college game, are sharing repetitions while wearing red shirts in drills.

And for now, Laycock says it's a five-way race.

"There are five of them, and the approach we made going in was that all five are going to get shots," Laycock said. "We're going to try to make it as even as possible and let it play out.

"If we have to cut it down a little bit as we go on, we'll let their play dictate that. But right now, all five are in the mix and getting equal opportunity."

The five are, in order of experience: fourth-year junior Tommy McKee, third-year sophomore Brandon Battle, redshirt freshmen Dean Rotger and Theodore Hefter, and true freshman Shon Mitchell, who enrolled in January.

McKee was Cluley's backup the last two seasons but attempted only four passes (completing each).

"Everyone's getting reps, and that's good," Laycock said. "We're taking the approach this spring that we're really going to put most of our emphasis on the passing game and see where we are. We have a number of receivers, and we want to get them reps."

The Tribe returns its top four receivers (DeVonte Dedmon, Daniel Kuzjak, Andrew Caskin and Jack Armstrong) along with Jalen Christian, a transfer from South Carolina who missed four games in 2016 with an injury.

But as the Tribe emphasizes its passing game, it will do so without an offensive coordinator. Kevin Rogers, W&M's coordinator the past four seasons, resigned in February. Though Laycock was aware earlier, Rogers' resignation was announced 15 days before spring practice began.

"The offense has been going fine," Laycock said. "That part has been no problem. Everybody has taken on somewhat different roles, maybe a little bit more, and putting it all together.

"I'm going to kind of let spring ball play out and give everybody a chance to coach and not disrupt things. We'll keep going the way we're going and see how things work out."

Rogers was also the quarterbacks coach. Laycock said D.J. Mangas, the Tribe's running backs coach, has been working with the quarterbacks.

Generally speaking, starting jobs aren't won or lost in spring practice. Laycock isn't expecting to have a clear-cut No. 1 quarterback going into the fall, but he is hoping for some separation.

"I'm not saying I want to come out of spring with a number one, number two," he said. "No, I don't anticipate that.

"But I would like it trimmed down a little bit to, for example, have our top three and go from there. Or maybe a top two. Then we see how it plays out in preseason. But if we don't, we don't."

NOTES: Caskin has a shoulder injury and has avoided contact drills so far. … Tailback Albert Funderburke, who tore his ACL in the fourth game of last season, isn't expected back until fall practice at the earliest. … Two former starters with eligibility remaining have decided to graduate and not return in the fall: place-kicker Nick Dorka, who missed most of last season with a leg injury, and safety Richie DiPietro, the Tribe's fifth-leading tackler last season. … Marvin Clecidor, W&M's cornerbacks coach the last two years, has taken the same job at Princeton. Laycock said a replacement has not been "officially" hired yet.

Johnson can be reached at 757-247-4649.

Key dates

Spring game: April 15

Season opener: W&M at Virginia, Sept. 2.

CAA opener: Stony Brook at W&M, Sept. 30.

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