THE VITAL INFO2009 | 6-2 CAA, 11-3 (lost to Villanova 14-13 in national semifinals.
THE COACH Jimmye Laycock 31st year at William and Mary (200-141-2)Laycock, a Williamsburg institution, ranks 11th among active Division I head coaches with 200 victories. His 82 CAA victories rank fourth all-time, and among active conference coaches, he trails only Villanova's Andy Talley (107). Last year's 11 wins tied a school record and earned the Tribe its 10th playoff appearance in Laycock's tenure and its second trip to the national semifinals in the past six seasons. Twenty-seven players who've played for Laycock have gone on to play in the NFL, and his coaching Academic Progress Rate average, a measure of graduation rates, is a sterling 978.8 out of a possible 1,000.
THE STANDOUTS Jake Trantin Jr. | 6-1 | 235 | LBTrantin, the anchor of an experienced linebacking corps, led the Tribe with 90 tackles last year. He had 10 tackles for loss, 2 1/2 sacks and three interceptions.
Jonathan Grimes Jr. | 5-10 | 201 | RBThe Tribe's offensive game plan starts with its triple-threat tailback, who rushed for 1,294 yards last season while adding 289 receiving and 460 return yards.
David Miller Sr. | 6-0 | 183 | K/PMiller, a two-time all-conference selection, averaged 40.5 yards per punt last year, 21st in the nation. Fifteen of his punts pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line.
Who's behind center? UNC transfer Mike Paulus is the preseason favorite to replace R.J. Archer's 2,778 passing yards and 21 total touchdowns. Paulus played in just four games in 2008 with the Tar Heels, completing four of 13 pass attempts for 33 yards (and two interceptions), but that still gives him an experience edge over the other QB candidates. Fifth-year senior Mike Callahan, junior D.J. Mangas and redshirt freshman Brent Caprio have played in one game between them (Mangas made one appearance in 2009). Whoever gets the nod will need to be a quick study if the Tribe is to contend for a title CAA or national.
Defensive backbone. The reason a question mark at quarterback doesn't negate those title aspirations is an experienced defense that gave up just 228 yards per game last season, second-best in the nation. The losses of NFL draft picks Adrian Tracy at end and Sean Lissemore in the middle of the line are huge, but senior linebacker Evan Francks (89 tackles) joins Trantin and senior Wes Steinman (44 tackles, 11 1/5 for loss) to form a formidable attack at linebacker. William and Mary also boasts experienced cornerbacks in senior Ben Cottingham and sophomore B.W. Webb, whose eight interceptions tied for second-best in the country last year.
Stacked backfield. Grimes is the headliner in the Tribe's backfield, but he has a more-than-respectable supporting cast. Senior tailback Courtland Marriner rushed for 481 yards and seven touchdowns despite a lingering knee injury, while senior fullback Terrence Riggins added 291 yards and two TDs as he worked his way back from an ankle injury. And sophomore tailback Meltoya Jones, out of Tabb High, is hungry for a chance should any of the above give him an opening. But opposing defenses will have their hands full enough with Grimes, a junior who already ranks 10th all-time on the Tribe's career rushing list with 2,223 yards.
The Villanova hump. Though a once-sizable gap has narrowed considerably, William and Mary, picked to finish second in the CAA, hasn't beaten preseason favorite Villanova since 2004. With senior quarterback Chris Whitney, who threw for 1,936 yards and rushed for another 987, do-everything threat Matt Szczur, the conference preseason offensive player of the year, and senior linebacker and league preseason defensive player of the year Terence Thomas (116 tackles) returning, the road to championships CAA and otherwise likely goes through Villanova once more. But while both William and Mary losses to the Wildcats came in Pennsylvania last year, the Tribe gets Nova at home this time.
Great expectations. Coming oh-so-close to playing for a national championship whetted the desire of William and Mary's players, coaches and fans, but though a second chance is tantalizing, it's far from guaranteed. Just surviving a brutal-as-usual CAA schedule, which also includes probable preseason top-25 teams New Hampshire, Delaware, James Madison and Richmond, will be feat enough. However, if the Tribe can hold its own against conference competition, it will be well-conditioned for whatever playoff competition comes calling. Laycock, wily veteran that he is, downplays talk of another title run, but deep down, he and everyone rooting for his team hopes that chance comes again, and soon.
THE SCHEDULE Sept. 4 | at Massachusetts, 3:30 p.m.The Tribe opens the season with what should be a tuneup against a team coming off a 5-6 season and picked to finish eighth in the 10-team CAA.
Sept. 11 | vs. VMI. 7 p.m.The Keydets are back on the Tribe's schedule after a year's absence, though they may end up wishing they weren't. In 2008, VMI lost 52-17.
Sept. 18 | at Old Dominion, 7 p.m.The cross-town schools, CAA rivals starting in 2011, meet for the first time in a game that take the measure of the upstart Monarchs, 9-2 in their first season.
Sept. 25 | at Maine, 6 p.m.The Black Bears, picked seventh in the CAA preseason poll, went 5-6 last year, but held opponents to less than 200 passing yards per game.
Oct. 2 | vs. Villanova, 3:30 p.m.Big game? It's only a rematch of last year's national semifinal, which the Wildcats won by one point, and a matchup of the predicted 1-2 teams in the league.
Oct. 9 | vs. Rhode Island, 7 p.m.The Rams, picked to finish ninth in the conference, won just one game in a 2009 season that saw opponents average 423 yards per game.
Oct. 23 | vs. Delaware, noonUnitas watch list QB Pat Devlin will provide fireworks for the Blue Hens, a top-20 team in several preseason polls, and a test for the Tribe's defense.
Oct. 30 | at North Carolina, TBAWilliam and Mary, which beat FBS opponent Virginia last year, travels to North Carolina for a reunion of sorts with QB Mike Paulus' former team.
Nov. 6 | at New Hampshire, noonTabbed as the conference's No. 3 team, UNH went 10-3 in a season that included a playoff win against McNeese State but ended with a 46-7 drubbing at Villanova.
Nov. 13 | at James Madison, 1:30 p.m.The Bulldogs, overtime losers at Maryland to open 2009, ended their 6-5 season with four straight wins, starting with a 20-8 victory against then-No. 16 Delaware.
Nov. 20 | vs. Richmond, 3:30 p.m.The Tribe's last two games against the Spiders, both losses, have been decided by a total of six points in what is becoming an annual clash of top-5 teams.
THE EXPECTATIONS 9-2. It's not a stretch to imagine a 10-win season, but that would likely require victories at both North Carolina and New Hampshire. That's possible for the Tribe, as is a monster win against Villanova, but a team without an established starter at quarterback may stumble in at least one big game.