Senior Jake Phillips knows the offense, throws it well and doesn’t lack confidence. If he gets decent protection, he’ll better his 2,800 yard and 19 TD 2007 season. He has decent wheels when flushed from the pocket, too.
What was thought to be a position full of depth heading into the season is now a big question mark. Senior DeBrian Holmes and sophomore Courtland Marriner are out for the opener, leaving sophomore Terrence Riggins — the Tribe’s most physical back — to carry the load. Redshirt freshman Ryan Woolfolk looked good in the second preseason scrimmage and will play behind Riggins. Waiting in the wings is true freshman Jonathan Grimes, who showed his speed in limited preseason action.
Experience along the interior of the line is a major positive for the Tribe, as senior center Luke Hiteshew anchors a veteran trio. However, the unit will be susceptible to outside pressure as a pair of young, inexperienced tackles look to protect Phillips and provide running lanes for the Tribe backs.
After missing nearly all of last season with a knee injury, junior D.J. McAulay will return to line up opposite senior Elliott Mack in what is perhaps the most significant homecoming from last year’s injury list. Together, the pair will provide Phillips with one of the top receiving tandems in the CAA, as the Tribe’s starting receivers will force defenses to respect their speed, while spreading the field and opening up seams for the rest of the offense. Sophomore Cameron Dohse will look to reprise a season in which he racked up over 500 yards receiving.
Junior Rob Varno takes over the starting job as he attempts to fill the shoes of Drew Atchison. While Varno will not factor into the passing game as heavily as Atchison, the position remains strong as the junior will provide sturdy blocking and protection skills.
Seniors Josh Rutter and Michael Pigram anchored the Tribe defense last season, together notching 161 tackles. They will seek to reprise that role in 2008, providing veteran experience and key leadership while mentoring promising redshirt freshman Jake Trantin, an expected future defensive standout for defensive coordinator Bob Shoops.
After senior cornerback Derek Cox posted three interceptions while garnering third team All-CAA honors a year ago, he will look to improve upon that performance while serving as the shutdown corner opposite sophomore Ben Cottingham. At the safety slots, juniors David Caldwell and Robert Livingston combined for 182 tackles last season and could challenge for all-conference honors this season.
Junior defensive ends C.J. Herbert and Adrian Tracy will bring a combined 10 career sacks and 24 career starts to what should be a line much improved from last season. Classmate Sean Lissemore is a prime candidate for a breakout season at defensive tackle while, redshirt freshman Harold Robertson will line up opposite Lissemore.
Reliability is junior kicker Brian Pate’s strong point, as he converted 40 of 41 extra point attempts and 9 of 16 field goals last season. Meanwhile, sophomore punter David Miller provides a strong leg when the Tribe offense falters, averaging 35.1 yards per punt in 2007. Senior Elliott Mack will utilize his blazing speed to return punts while sophomore Terrell Wells and junior David Caldwell will partner on kickoffs.