WILLIAM AND MARY
2016 | 5-6, 3-5 Colonial Athletic Association
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Going into his 38th season, which makes him the longest-tenured active coach in Division I, Laycock faces a rebuilding job. Gone is his three-year starting quarterback and two-time 1,000-yard rusher from a team that finished 5-6. With more question marks than strengths, the Tribe was picked seventh in the Colonial's preseason poll — one spot ahead of last year's finish. Which seems about right.
So. | 5-11 | 195 | S
He started all 11 games as a redshirt freshman and was third on the team with 71 tackles. Also had three interceptions and broke up seven passes. Was named STATS FCS Freshman of the Week after making 15 tackles and intercepting a pass in his college debut at N.C. State.
Sr. | 5-10 | 195 | WR/KR
Hampered by a foot injury for much of the season, Dedmon was still productive with 35 catches for 533 yards and five touchdowns. W&M is hopeful he can get back to the game-breaking form he showed as a sophomore, when he returned two kicks for touchdowns.
So. | 6-1 | 240 | LB
As a redshirt freshman, he started all 11 games and was second on the team in tackles with 74. Maybe his best performance was his debut against N.C. State, when he had 12 stops. He also made the Academic All-Conference team for the second consecutive season.
Sr. | 6-5 | 240 | TE
With a strong finish, he had another solid season. Caskin had seven of his 30 catches and all three of his touchdowns in the final two games of the season. He missed most of spring practice with a shoulder injury but says he's fully recovered.
Sr. | 6-4 | 310 | LT
He's started all 30 games in which he's played during his career at left tackle. Was a third-team All-CAA pick in each of the last two seasons and made the STATS FCS preseason All-America third team. A big reason the Tribe has had a 1,000-yard rusher the last three seasons.
FIVE-WAY AT QB
In his 38 seasons, Laycock never remembers a situation like this. Spring camp ended with five candidates in the mix to be the starting quarterback — junior Tommy McKee, sophomore Brandon Battle, redshirt freshmen Ted Hefter and Dean Rotger, and true freshman Shon Mitchell. McKee is the only one who has taken a college snap, but he's attempted only five passes. Laycock is hoping someone emerges quickly in preseason to get plenty of reps before the Sept. 2 opener at Virginia.
THE GROUND GAME
The Tribe has had a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last three seasons — Mikal Abdul-Saboor (2014) and Kendell Anderson ('15, '16) . That streak is on the line. Albert Funderburke, thought to be W&M's next great back, still hasn't fully recovered from an ACL injury he sustained last September. That leaves sophomore Brehon Britt as the most experienced back. Redshirt freshmen Jaret Anderson and Noah Giles will get a look, as will true freshmen Nate Evans and Owen Wright.
HOLES ON DEFENSE
The Tribe lost two of its three starters at linebacker, with only sophomore Nate Atkins (74 tackles in 2016) returning in the middle. But the coaches are excited about Arman Jones, who became the first true freshman backer to play at W&M since 2010. On the other side, junior Shamir Bearfield, a transfer from Temple, has moved up from safety. The talent looks to be there, but there's little experience and even less depth.
STRENGTH AT RECEIVER
The good news for the Tribe is that it has plenty of talent and depth at wide receiver. DeVonte Dedmon, Daniel Kuzjak, Jack Armstrong, Isiah Kinder and Jalen Christian caught a combined 114 passes for 1,456 yards and nine touchdowns last season. You can also throw tight end Andrew Caskin (30 receptions, 269 yards, 3 TDs) into the mix. The key is for Dedmon and Christian, the game-breakers, to stay healthy. They weren't able to do that last season.
WHO'S THE KID?
D.J. Mangas, the Tribe's new offensive coordinator, is only 28 — and looks younger. He was W&M's running backs coach the last three seasons and worked closely with Kevin Rogers, who was the OC until resigning in February. Mangas already has impressed the players with his work ethic, and he'll need that energy with so many questions on offense. His most pressing job, obviously, will be managing a five-way race to be the starting quarterback.
Sept. 2 | at Virginia, 3:30 p.m. W&M is 2-17 against FBS teams since 1998. One of those wins came against Virginia in 2009. The Cavs, coming off a 2-10 season, won the most recent meeting 35-29 in 2015.
Sept. 9 | at Norfolk State, 6 p.m. For the fourth year in a row, the Tribe opens with two straight road games. W&M beat the Spartans 35-10 last year and 29-14 in 2014.
Sept. 16 | Bucknell, 6 p.m. The Tribe is 4-0 against the Bison, but the two schools haven't played since 1996. Bucknell is coming off a 4-7 season.
Sept. 30 | Stony Brook, 6 p.m. W&M is 3-0 against the Seawolves, but two of the wins ended as one-possession games. That includes a 14-9 win last year on the road.
Oct. 7 | at Elon, 2 p.m. The first warning sign of what would become a disappointing 2016 season was a 27-10 home loss to the Phoenix in the fourth week. Elon is picked 11th in the CAA preseason poll.
Oct. 14 | at Delaware, 3:30 p.m. The Blue Hens are under new management with proven winner Danny Rocco as head coach. Last year, W&M rallied from a 14-3 hole to win 24-17.
Oct. 21 | James Madison, 3:30 p.m. This is the Tribe's homecoming game?? The Dukes are the defending FCS national champion and everyone's pick to repeat in the CAA.
Oct. 28 | at Maine, noon. The Black Bears ruined Zable Stadium's dedication game with a 35-28 win, their third in a row over the Tribe.
Nov. 4 | New Hampshire, 2 p.m. The Tribe is 10-1 at home vs. the Wildcats, with the only loss coming in 1998. But UNH has made 13 consecutive playoff appearances.
Nov. 18 | at Richmond, 3 p.m. In the highlight of an otherwise down year, the Tribe broke a five-game losing streak in this series to beat the Spiders 34-13 in the finale.
The best conference in FCS? That would probably go to the Missouri Valley, but the CAA would have to be next. The Colonial had five teams ranked in STATS' preseason poll — James Madison (No. 1), Richmond (7), Villanova (10), New Hampshire (13) and Albany (24). The Dukes, of course, are the defending national champion with a good shot of repeating.