Football: Callahan wins starting job

Updated 10:45 pm Monday

Head Coach Jimmye Laycock named senior Mike Callahan his starting quarterback for William and Mary’s Saturday afternoon season opener at UMass, tapping the fifth-year player over junior transfer Mike Paulus and redshirt freshman Brent Caprio.

“He’s experienced,” Laycock said. “He understands our offense, and he’s made very good decisions when we’ve put him in situations … I’ve been very pleased with the quarterback situation throughout [the preseason].”

Callahan missed all of the 2009 season with a knee injury. The senior quarterback spent his sophomore and redshirt-freshman years as a member of the travel squad, but did not see any game action.

A two-year letter winning quarterback at Hempfield High School in Mounville, Pa., Callahan set school records in passing yards (4,159) and touchdown passes (27) during his high school career.

Originally considered the third wheel of the College’s three-headed quarterback race, Callahan beat out his more touted competitors, Paulus and Caprio, for the starting job few outside prognosticators thought he would win heading into the preseason.

“I don’t think anybody thought I was going to be the starting quarterback prior to this camp,” Callahan said. “I personally didn’t feel like the dark horse, but when you read all these articles and Paulus comes in, everybody thought I was.“

Callahan changed that mentality through his play in practice, winning the support of his coach and teammates despite never having taken a collegiate snap. The senior completed 8 of 17 passes going against the first team defense in an open scrimmage Aug. 21, gaining 84 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Laycock first informed the quarterbacks of his decision Friday morning in a position group meeting. The news slowly trickled out to the rest of the team, before the official announcement came Monday.

Callahan said he was excited when told, but mostly ready to get down to business during game week.

“A lot of feelings went through my mind, but I’m not really that type of person [to react], so just a little head nod,” he said. “I’m very excited, very confident. We’ve got a lot of weapons on the offense, a great group of receivers, a good line. I know it will be tough, but I’ve been going against a pretty good defense [in practice].”

The coach hailed the improvement of all three quarterbacks competing for the starting job, while expressing confidence in the trio.

“I think all of our quarterbacks have done a very good job in the preseason, their workload this summer was significant in their improvement level,” he said. “They have worked hard, competed, and gotten better … But Mike [Callahan] has certainly earned it, this is not a process of elimination. It’s going to be a situation where we see how things progress. None of these guys have played in a ball game, so we’ll see how they do Saturday in a game.”

Laycock said he was not yet decided on a primary backup, but Callahan understands that although he has won the starting job, he does not yet hold a permanent grasp on the position.

“I measure success in wins, that’s all that matters,” he said. “If you’re not winning, you’re going to lose your spot, so I want to go 1-0 each week.”


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