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2019 Virginia Football Opponent Preview: William & Mary Tribe

You know, that school Thomas Jefferson went to.

William & Mary v Virginia Tech Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

The 2018 season did not serve William & Mary kindly in Head Coach Jimmye Laycock’s 39th and final season at the helm, as the team struggled to find any sustained success. The Tribe finished with a 4-6 overall record and an 8th-place mark in the final CAA standings. Looking forward, perhaps the arrival of former Virginia head coach Mike London (27-46 with the Cavaliers from 2010-2015) can bring some new life to a program that hasn’t finished over .500 since 2015.

Last Year: 4-6 (3-4 CAA)

The season opened positively enough for the Tribe with a 14-7 win over Bucknell on the road before things started to spiral out of control. Following an expected beatdown at the hands of then-12th ranked Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, the team struggled against nationally-ranked James Madison and Colgate, falling by a combined score of 74-0.

From there, W&M went back-and-forth in the win-loss column, besting Albany, Villanova, and eventual conference champion Maine — the high point of 2018 for the team — while losing away games at Towson and Rhode Island. The season ended with a 10-6 defeat at home to longtime rival Richmond.

Last Time: UVA 28, W&M 10 (2017)

Bronco Mendenhall’s squad did a better job taking care of in-state FCS competition in his second year in Charlottesville (see here), as the Hoos knocked off the Tribe behind 262 passing yards and three touchdowns from Kurt Benkert. Running back Jordan Ellis, who caught one of those scoring throws, also netted 80 yards on the ground on 20 attempts. On the defensive side, UVA limited dual-threat quarterback Tommy McKee to just 63 yards through the air and 99 yards in the run game.

Overall, UVA has won three straight against William & Mary and boasts a 29-6-1 head-to-head record.

Comings and Goings

DeVonte Dedmon was perhaps the one consistent force on the Tribe’s offense in 2018, proving he could hang among FBS talent when he hauled in six catches for 96 yards and a score against in the Hokies in early September. Unfortunately for W&M, he is now gone. The good news is that all three quarterbacks who received significant playing time last year — Shon Mitchell, Ted Hefter, and Dean Rotger — return to Williamsburg with a little more experience under their belt. Throw in grad transfer Kilton Anderson, who threw eight touchdowns and three picks in nine game appearances with Coastal Carolina last year, and Coach London has plenty of options for who he wants to lead his offense. The question is: can any one of them become a real, consistent playmaker week in and week out?

Defensively, most of William & Mary’s stars are back this fall, namely All-CAA second-team selection Bill Murray, who led the team in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (4.5) in 2018. Fellow second-teamer Isaiah Laster is also expected to start at safety again in 2019 after recording four interceptions and 65 tackles a year ago, good for second most on the team. Linebacker Nate Atkins, who had 50.5 total tackles last season, should be a force in his senior year, as well.

2019 X-Factor

A lot of the success William & Mary hopes to have in 2019 is going to depend on just how effective new Offensive Coordinator Brennan Marion’s “GoGo” offense can become. If Marion can field a competent ground game — most likely through senior Albert Funderburke and sophomore Owen Wright — and find a quarterback among the plethora at his disposal that is able to run the ball and work quickly, then the Tribe have a chance to put points on the board in a hurry. If not, we could see some of the same inconsistencies haunt the Tribe yet again.

This Time: William & Mary @ UVA (9/6)

Mike London did a good job revamping a Howard program in the two seasons he spent with the Bison prior to coming to Williamsburg. But, with the questions at quarterback, I’m not sure he’ll be able to figure out this team’s offensive woes in such a short time frame. Couple that with the talent gap between the two squads and I expect this one to be pretty one-sided.