Following William and Mary’s 21-17 loss to FBS powerhouse North Carolina last Saturday, redshirt freshman quarterback Brent Caprio was one of the few members of the team who was excited after the defeat.
Sure, he felt badly that the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart, senior starter Mike Callahan and junior backup Michael Paulus were both injured and disappointed that the team had suffered a stinging loss — but he had received the best news a quarterback could receive.
A few hours earlier, as the team was preparing to leave the locker room and board the bus, quarterbacks coach David Corley pulled Caprio aside and gave him long-awaited good news.
“[He] told me to get ready to go to work this week, that we have a big game ahead of us, and that I have to be ready to play this weekend,” Caprio said. “I spoke with my parents right after that, and they were pretty excited for me. I’ve been watching a lot of film on New Hampshire since then.”
The announcement could not have come after a more unlikely sequence of events.
On a play in the first quarter of the game against North Carolina, Callahan attempted to evade the North Carolina defense, but was hit and suffered a shoulder injury.
Paulus, who has filled in admirably for Callahan the past three weeks including a win against No. 1 Villanova, then entered the ballgame. Paulus nearly led the Tribe to an upset of North Carolina, but on the junior’s last drive, Paulus incurred a vicious hit from a North Carolina defender that knocked him out of the ballgame.
Caprio then took the field, throwing a last-minute Hail Mary which was intercepted.
Despite ending the UNC game on a less than positive note, Caprio said he is optimistic that his second time under center will yield better results.
“This will be my first college game of significance, and I’ve been waiting for two years to get in there,” Caprio said. “I’ve really prepared every game this season like I was the starter, because that’s what our coaches want us to do. I think that I can help out the other quarterbacks who are playing if I am prepared, and I can see things from the sidelines, so the preparation hasn’t really been any different.”
While Head Coach Jimmye Laycock also believes Caprio has done well in his role as the signal caller thus far, he said he is excited to see how the young quarterback will overcome inexperience — a common theme amongst Tribe quarterbacks this year.
“If you look at the play we have gotten out of the quarterback position so far, and its been pretty good,” Laycock said. “You figure that, going into this year, none of our quarterbacks have had game [experience], haven’t really played in college football games and were really brand new at everything … Up to this point, Mike Callahan and Mike Paulus have done very well, and I’m sure Brent will do well. It’s just a matter of getting him reps. He’s got to go with it, he’s got to learn on the move.”
Caprio said that both Callahan and Paulus have been instrumental in his development this week. Both of the sidelined quarterbacks have met with Caprio and relayed their experiences as a starter, in order to provide him with some perspective.
Although Caprio’s first start will occur under challenging circumstances — on the road against a top-10 CAA opponent — the redshirt freshman plans to simply execute the game plan and not try to do too much in order to achieve a Tribe victory.
“My goal for this weekend is to just manage the game well, be a leader out there, and make good decisions with the ball,” Caprio said. “I think both of those guys have done a good job with that, and I need to continue that.”