William & Mary is coming off a 9-4 season and an FCS playoff berth. The Tribe finished 6-2 in the CAA and also gave UVA a scare in Charlottesville early in the 2015 season. This is a talented and seasoned group that has a chance to improve on its run to the second round of the playoffs.
The significant questions lie on the defensive side. The Tribe’s offense, which returns the bulk of its major contributors from 2015, should be very good.
W&M overview, offense edition
Offensive line: The Tribe have to replace their starting center, but everybody else is back, and they are experienced. Left tackle Chris Durant (6-4, 310) and left guard Connor Hilland (6-6, 303) both have 19 starts to their credit. Right tackle Jerry Ugokwe (6-8, 305) has 31 career starts, and right guard Domenic Martinelli (6-4, 295) has 29. Assuming the new center ain’t snapping the ball off his foot every other down, they’ll be okay up front.
Quarterback: Senior Steve Cluley (6-3, 225) has proven a solid guy, if not a huge difference-maker. But airing it out hasn’t been the Tribe’s M.O. over the last few years; Cluley averaged about 22 attempts per game in 2014 and 27 in 2015. He doesn’t need to throw the ball 40 times per game for this team to be successful—not with an experienced offensive line in front of him and a 1,400-yard rusher behind him.
Running back: Kendell Anderson (5-9, 200) made the most of his first year as a starter, rushing for 1,418 yards on 240 carries (5.9 YPA). He broke the century mark on the ground seven times in 2015, and scored 16 rushing touchdowns. He’s not much of a threat to catch passes out of the backfield, however, as he finished last season with only 12 receptions for 80 yards.
While Anderson is one of the best running backs FCS has to offer, there is almost no experience behind him. The Tribe lost veteran Mikal Abdul-Saboor, who ran for 1200+ in 2014, to graduation.
Aside from Anderson, there are five players on the W&M listed at running back. Four are either redshirt or true freshmen. The fifth, sophomore, junior Jonathan Dunn, has 26 career carries. Anderson is going to have to be on the field a lot this season when it counts.
Tight end: This is another spot where W&M has a solid first-stringer and not much to speak of behind him. Incumbent starter Andrew Caskin (6-5, 240) finished 2015 second on the team in receptions with 34 and fourth with 360 receiving yards. The guys behind him either have never played a down of college football or have made no impact as a pass catcher.
Wide receiver: Including Caskin, the Tribe return five of their top six pass-catchers from 2015. Junior DeVonte Dedmon (5-11, 190) is expected to be the leader of the wide receiver group after finishing last season with 51 grabs for 588 yards. Daniel Kuzjak (6-2, 200), Jack Armstrong (6-0, 180), and Kevin Hart (5-11, 195) each had more than 20 receptions last season.
Good depth here, but not a lot of size within this unit, either.
Dedmon aside, I don’t think there’s a lot along the edges that is going to scare NC State’s defense. Anderson needs to have a big game to truly create problems (Anderson and Abdul-Saboor combined for 151 on the ground against UVA), and as experienced as they are up front, I don’t see a lot of success coming at the point of attack for W&M.
Not that it’s outside the realm of possibility, mind you. It’s just that defensive line is arguably the deepest and most talented group on this NC State team. This will be a strength-on-strength matchup worth watching.