Ever is a long time, especially for someone going into his 38th year as head coach. But William and Mary’s Jimmye Laycock does not recall being this close to his season opener with this many quarterbacks still in contention to start.
Tommy McKee, Brandon Battle and Shon Mitchell are all listed on the depth chart with the word “or” between their names. Somebody will have to take the first snap Saturday at Virginia, but earlier this week, Laycock didn’t know who that would be.
“I haven’t determined who will start the game, no,” he said. “Still kind of mulling over a few things as we move through practice. We’ve got guys who are competing really well. We might play all three of them, I don’t know.
“I think it’ll eventually evolve into who performs better in a game. They’ve all been pretty even in practice. It’s a matter of how things unfold in a game, I guess.”
Whoever emerges will be making his first college start on the road against a Power Five team. Granted, one that finished 2-10 last season, but a Power Five team nonetheless. So don’t be surprised if the issue isn’t completely solved after Saturday.
A fourth-year junior, McKee was Steve Cluley’s backup last season and has been around the program the longest. Battle has the look of a quarterback at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, and Mitchell is the most intriguing possibility, as a true freshman.
Only McKee has taken a snap in a college game, and that was backing up the Iron Man himself — Cluley, who started 36 consecutive games.
“It’s real close there,” Laycock said. “We’ll see how the game unfolds. We have to see, once we start playing the game, how we are offensively.”
With all the attention given to the quarterback position, W&M is just as unsettled at running back, with the loss of Kendell Anderson and Albert Funderburke’s lingering knee injury.
The depth chart lists redshirt freshmen Noah Giles (Nansemond-Suffolk Academy) and Jaret Anderson Nos. 1 and 2. But also expect to see sophomore Brehon Britt and possibly true freshman Nate Evans.
“I would assume we are going to play several running backs,” Laycock said. “I don’t see one right now just being the one. We’re going to probably play two to three to whatever.”
The Tribe has faced an FBS (formerly Division I-A) opponent every year since 1998. W&M is 2-17 in those games, with wins coming in ’98 (Temple) and 2009 (Virginia).
Senior defensive tackle Isaiah Stephens’ college debut came against Virginia Tech in 2014.
“I like playing on the bigger stage,” he said. “I love playing against bigger teams. It just feels more electric. It gets your blood flowing, to say the least. But once you put the pads on, it’s the same game.”
It will be a homecoming for wide receiver Daniel Kuzjak, who played for Western Albemarle High. He caught one pass for 11 yards in a 35-29 loss to the Cavaliers in 2015.
“Obviously, this year, it will be a different role being a fifth-year senior,” he said. “I’m trying to lead some of the younger guys who haven’t played in any games at all.
“It’s good to be excited about the games. It’s good to come with some juice. But don’t let the highs get too high and don’t let the lows get too low. Stay level headed.”
Tyler Crist, a redshirt freshman walk-on from Kecoughtan High, is listed as W&M’s starting fullback. “He’s a young man who has come in here and impressed us immediately with his toughness,” Laycock said. ... In addition to being co-No. 1 at quarterback, McKee is listed as the starting punter and holder. … Five players are expected to make their first college starts on offense Saturday.
Johnson can be reached by phone at 757-247-4649. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveJohnsonDP.