The sun was out and football was officially back in session at Zable Stadium April 12. William and Mary ended its spring practice schedule Saturday with the annual Green and Gold Game in front of approximately 2,000 fans.
The Tribe looks to improve on a 7-5 campaign last fall, one that included a 4-4 Colonial Athletic Association record and saw the playoffs slip away in the final week. Head coach Jimmye Laycock is without the service of several graduating seniors, including safety Jerome Couplin, offensive lineman Matt Crisafi and defensive tackle George Beerhalter.
Quarterback concerns highlight offseason headlines. Last year, seniors Michael Graham and Brent Caprio split snaps with uneven success. Junior Raphael Ortiz, the presumptive favorite heading into next season’s opening game, sat out the entirety of last season due to shoulder surgery. Ortiz still isn’t back to full health and did not play in the spring game.
Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t soothe Tribe fans’ trepidations. Sophomore quarterback Frank Brown hit on seven of nine attempts for 82 yards and a touchdown. However, sophomore quarterback Steve Cluley was less impressive, throwing two interceptions. Cluley shared first-team snaps with junior quarterback Christian Brumbaugh, who turned in an effective two-minute drill as the scrimmage wound down.
“We need to clean some things up,” Brumbaugh told the Daily Press. “We did some good things. We did some bad things. Overall, it was a successful day.”
Laycock, normally less blunt in front of media, expressed his concern at the present uncertainty of the quarterback position.
“Honestly, no one’s performed with the consistency that we feel we need right now,” Laycock told Tribe Athletics. “It’s still a work in progress; it is not done yet.”
There is much less reason for concern on the other side of the ball. After a year in which the Tribe dominated most opposing offenses, the College’s defense returns the majority of its starters and will boast one of the top defenses in the conference.
The defense’s immense potential was on display at the start of the scrimmage. Sophomore cornerback DeAndre Houston-Carson forced a fumble on the very first play of the game while junior linebacker Airek Green picked up the fumble for the first of the offense’s five turnovers.
“We’ve got a lot of good players coming back on defense, and I expected them to come forward and play,” Laycock told Tribe Athletics. “I think they really did today. So, I think it was definitely more of the defense than the offense today.”
The College’s vaunted defense simplifies the demands on any of the quarterbacks, as Brumbaugh alluded to after the game.
“We have the luxury of having a great defense,” Brumbaugh told the Daily Press. “Let’s not put the defense in a bad situation, and let’s just do the things we can do.”
Freshman running back Jonathan Dunn contributed the second touchdown of the day on a 5-yard run.
After the scrimmage, senior tight end Bo Revell, senior safety Ivan Tagoe, senior defensive end Stephen Sinnott and junior middle linebacker Luke Rhodes were announced as the team’s new captains. Rhodes was also honored with the John A. Stewart Winter Warrior Award, given annually to a player whose off-season training is judged to be exceptional.
In what has become a program tradition as ingrained as the Green and Gold Game, the College will play a top Football Bowl Series opponent on the road to start its season. The Tribe heads to Blacksburg, Virginia to kick-off next season Aug. 30.