Football: 2015 Preview
Written by Nick Cipolla and Sumner Higginbotham|
September 8, 2015
After last year’s 7-5, 4-4 CAA finish, William and Mary still hopes for qualification to the FCS Playoffs and a CAA Championship in 2015. The Flat Hat Sports editors previewed the offense and defense of the Tribe after the first game, a win over Lafayette. Click the links for the full analysis.
As William and Mary opens its new season this fall, the offense will be under constant scrutiny by critics of junior quarterback Steve Cluley. Further uncertainty clouds the outlook for the wide receiver position, as fans wonder how new players will perform in the post-McBride era. The health of the offensive line is also a concern. Yet as all the individual parts and pieces combine into a cohesive unit, the Tribe’s offense hopes to be a formidable force against Colonial Athletic Association foes as well as non-conference opponents.
With strong opponents in the CAA as well as the upcoming game against Football Bowl Subdivision team Virginia, the Tribe’s offense will be put to the test against some top-tier defenses in the Football Championship Subdivision. After an entire offseason of hype, the players are optimistic about the season’s prospects, a positive outlook further bolstered by a strong performance in the opener that showcased a solid offense that can potentially do much more than last year’s fifth-place conference finish. The Tribe hopes to return to the FCS playoffs for the first time since 2010, the season before any of the current players were on the roster.
After a little more than half a decade of outstanding defense defining William and Mary football, including three Football Championship Subdivision top-10 squads (2009, 2010, 2013), the Tribe enters 2015 with more questions than answers on the defensive side.
Injuries struck every position last season, decimating what promised to be a premier unit and derailing the season with a home collapse against Richmond in the season finale with the Colonial Athletic Association playoffs on the line. The College’s woes at cornerback against the Spiders were a microcosm of a frustrating season, as the Tribe was left with third-string players in the cornerback position.
It remains to be seen if the healthy 2015 defensive unit can top the mediocre performance of the injury-riddled 2014 squad. Last season the Tribe began with sky-high expectations off the strength of eight returning starters from a 2013 unit that ranked second in the nation in scoring defense and eighth overall in total defense. However, the College never came close to those numbers, finishing fifth in the 12-team CAA in scoring defense and a dismal ninth in the CAA in total defense
The main concern of the 2015 defensive unit is its youth. William and Mary graduated five starters last year, three of whom were defensive linemen. Two of those players, defensive end Mike Reilly ‘15 and defensive tackle Jasper Coleman ‘15, were signed by National Football League teams this past offseason. The Tribe also features two fewer All-CAA preseason picks than last season. Furthermore, the defense surrendered 322 yards against Lafayette, a concerning statistic given the Tribe’s upcoming schedule of higher caliber opponents, such as Richmond and James Madison.