On the heels of a disappointing 4-7 season, Head Coach Jimmye Laycock and the rest of the Tribe have already begun to examine what steps the team must take this offseason.
p. Entering the year with high expectations, the College won four of its first seven games, including an impressive overtime victory over Liberty University. But things took a turn for the worse in the second half of the season, as the Tribe dropped its final four contests, all against ranked foes.
p. Despite the early success, the Tribe suffered through a myriad of inconsistencies as the season progressed. On multiple occasions the College played well against strong opponents, emerging victorious on the road against the University of Maine and at home against Towson University, but the team failed to turn heads with any major upsets.
p. The Tribe came closest to a season-defining victory against the then fourth-ranked University of Massachusetts homecoming weekend, but the game slipped out of the College’s grasp as the Minutemen hung on for a two-touchdown win.
p. “It was very disappointing to not be as successful as we would have liked to be,” Laycock said. “There were a couple games we left like we could have really gotten, and we didn’t. It’s a very difficult league.”
p. The inconsistencies that plagued the Tribe stemmed from the multitude of injuries that the College suffered throughout the season.
p. Due to the depletion of players on both sides of the ball, 14 redshirt or true freshmen saw action in the team’s season-ending game against the University of Richmond. The Tribe turned the ball over four times against the Spiders, in addition to allowing a blocked punt in the contest.
p. “We just had some mistakes there,” Laycock said. “We’ve got a lot of guys out there who are put in situations that are young and haven’t had the experience and haven’t played a whole lot. You look at the type of players we bring in here. We really have to work to develop our players into good players, and sometimes that takes time. I think some of our guys are going to be good players, but I think they need to develop.”
p. The time for development is in the offseason, and the Tribe enters this winter with the majority of the team’s roster intact, as only a handful of players have exhausted their eligibility. However, the team understands that experience and age are not the only factors that impact performance on the field.
p. “It’s more the mental makeup of the team as opposed to the physical part of it,” Laycock said. “It’s how the team comes together, the leadership, the attitudes, those types of things that make your team, more than just how many skill players or how many guys you have returning.
p. “We have the potential to be a better team next year because of guys returning, but it is also going to be determined by how the team comes together and how the team shapes up.”
p. Simply put, leadership is vital. The Tribe’s captains this season, senior offensive lineman Brad Stewart and junior cornerback Derek Cox, led by example off the field and on, as the two were among four members of the College named to the all-CAA third team. Junior quarterback Jake Phillips and junior wideout Elliot Mack also earned all-conference honors.
p. With Stewart departing, the onus will be on Cox, Phillips and the rest of the Tribe’s upperclassmen to instill the hard-work mentality and positive attitude that will be essential to the team’s success next season. Coach Laycock has already begun meeting with players in an effort to get them focused, prepared and situated in their role as leaders moving forward.
p. “They need to start with it now, and that’s why we are meeting now and talking about it as opposed to in the spring,” Laycock said. “Sometimes players kind of get lulled into staying in their same role, and they don’t realize that all of a sudden there’s a different role for them.”
p. The urgency is necessary, as things won’t be getting any easier for the Tribe over the next few seasons. The CAA sent five schools, the most of any conference, to the FCS playoffs, with three of those five advancing to this weekend’s second round.
p. In order for the Tribe to win in the high-pressure CAA, a productive off-season and influential leadership are a must. With weight-room sessions starting in January, the path is laid out, and the College will look to follow it to success.