FCS Football News
In the FCS Huddle: William & Mary ignoring the preseason polls
By Sean Shapiro, FCS Assistant
Baltimore, MD (The Sports Network) - Having coached 18 of his 31 seasons at William & Mary in the Colonial Athletic Association or one of its predecessors, Jimmye Laycock understands how competitive the conference can be.
He also understands how misguiding preseason polls can be.
"A lot of times preseason polls are more or less a reflection on the past more than the future. Obviously we had a good team last year, and we played well and all that," Laycock said. "But there's a lot of things we have to shake out in the preseason. ... It's a tough league to compete in and how we'll come through, I don't know."
Well, whether he likes it or not, Laycock's Tribe have been tabbed as the preseason favorite in the CAA, receiving more than half of the 22 first-place votes in preseason poll.
Even more expectations were added to the pile when running back Jonathan Grimes was named CAA Preseason Co-Offensive Player of the year with Delaware's Andrew Pierce.
However, neither Grimes nor his coach are worried about the preseason titles. What's more important for the Tribe is becoming the sole owner of the CAA title after they shared it with Delaware last season. They finished the season with an 8-4 record, but were disappointed by a loss at home to Georgia Southern in the second round of the FCS playoffs.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Tribe's ability to repeat is at quarterback, where four different players are likely to get first-team snaps in the preseason.
Michael Paulus, a senior who served as the backup to Mike Callahan last season, is recovering from shoulder surgery on his throwing arm and is expected to get the first chance of running the offense despite missing all of spring practice.
"We're going to have to see how far along he's come and how far along he can continue to go," Laycock said. "So, he's the one I need to look at first in preseason."
While Paulus will get the first chance, sophomore Brent Caprio is also an early favorite to win the job. Caprio started and threw for 30 yards and a touchdown against New Hampshire last season, but was knocked out of the game with an injury.
Freshman Raphael Ortiz and sophomore Mike Graham also will have chances to win the starting job.
"I would think right now we'll probably concentrate on Paulus and Caprio, maybe Ortiz, in the preseason," Laycock said.
No matter who wins the job, the quarterback will have an insurance blanket as he can, and will, hand the ball off to Grimes. The most decorated player in CAA history having earned eight all-conference honors in three seasons, rushed for 887 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
"That's one of the first priorities I'll tell our quarterback, 'You're going to have to be able to hand off to Grimes,'" Laycock said. "We're going to get the ball to Jon."
Getting the ball to Grimes could be a multi-faceted approach this season for the Tribe. While they still plan to hand off to the running back often, Laycock hopes Grimes also will be more involved in the passing game.
"I wanna do way better than last year," Grimes said. "This is my last year, I don't know if I'm ever going to play football again, so I'm trying to have the best year I've ever had - ever."
Another group trying to piece together a successful season is the Tribe defense, which is under the direction of new defensive coordinator Scott Boone. The former linebackers coach, isn't going to overhaul the system run by Bob Shoop - who left for a similar position at Vanderbilt - but he is adding some new twists.
"It's like the same thing, except he's got some of his ideas he can bring to the table that he probably couldn't before," defensive lineman Marcus Hyde said. "We're doing some crazy stuff that I like. Sometimes I'll get to stand up and we're doing some other blitzes that we haven't in the past."
So far the changes on defense have given the Tribe's offense issues, a fact that isn't necessarily a bad one.
"The trend is the defense usually kills us," Grimes said. "But that's cool, hopefully it's getting us better and getting them better somehow. They throw all kind of stuff at us, so it's not like we'll ever go against something we haven't seen before."
If the defense's preparation can make both sides of the ball better, it won't be surprise if Tribe are once again CAA champions, and perhaps provide validity to the preseason polls.
07/29 09:20:10 ET