William & Mary’s Jimmye Laycock could surely have come up with a better scenario for the start of his 35th season as coach at his alma mater. Since it’s too late for that, he can only laugh, and hope.
Laycock named inexperienced Steve Cluley as his starting quarterback this week, and will rely on the sophomore to weather a defensive storm when the Tribe opens the season at Virginia Tech on Saturday.
He knows the Hokies should have one of the nation’s top defenses again this year.
“They’re very, very good. They’re very good. They’re very fast. They’re very big. They’re very good. They play very hard. Other than that, what do you want me to tell you?” he said this week, laughing.
Laycock wasn’t sure how much of his offense will be available on game day.
“I don’t know if we’ve got a full offensive package or not,” he said, laughing again. “We’re taking it day to day, step by step, so I think the key is to push it as much as we can without overdoing it.”
The Hokies have a new quarterback, too — Michael Brewer, a transfer from Texas Tech.
With some questions still lingering about the Hokies’ offense, coach Frank Beamer enters his 28th season as coach with a healthy respect for the Tribe, which has a history of giving FBS schools fits.
Since 2009, William & Mary has beaten Virginia and held second-half leads against North Carolina, Maryland and West Virginia, and the Hokies claim that record has surely gotten their attention.
“A lot of their guys play like they have a chip on their shoulder,” defensive tackle Luther Maddy said of the Tribe, which, like the Hokies, boasts a stout defense. “They’re definitely not afraid of anybody.”
Besides Brewer, the game also will feature the beginning of Hokies wide receiver Isaiah Ford’s career. The freshman turned heads in preseason camp and was rewarded by being named a starter.
“He’s got very good ball skills,” Brewer said. “When the ball’s in the air, he does a really good job of coming down with it and making plays with the ball in his hands. I’m excited for him.”
Beamer and Laycock are the longest tenured coaches at the FBS and FCS levels, respectively.
Here are things to watch for when William & Mary plays at Virginia Tech:
CLULEY’S POISE: Bud Foster’s defense has made a habit of rattling inexperienced quarterbacks and will surely look to do IT early against Cluley. Whether it’s the pass rushing of Dadi Nicolas or the ball-hawking secondary that rates near the top in college football, Cluley will have his hands full.
MISTAKES: One of the keys for the Tribe in these payday games has been getting the ball to bounce their way and capitalizing. If the Hokies are sloppy with the ball, they could give the Tribe hope.
RUNNING GAME: William & Mary had one of the nation’s top defenses at the FCS level last season and should be solid again, led by senior defensive end Mike Reilly. The Hokies have struggled running the ball consistently in recent years and would love to get speedy tailback J.C. Coleman loose for long gains.
DEANS OF COACHING: Beamer and Laycock and longtime friends and golfing buddies who usually travel to Georgia every summer to play Augusta National. They didn’t get to do it this summer, but Beamer said that had nothing to do with the idea they were playing each other to start the season. Laycock (35th year) and Beamer (28th) are the longest tenured coaches at the FCS and FBS levels, respectively.
FULL-ON LOEFFLER: Hokies offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler’s love of the tight end in the passing game was taken away last season when starter Ryan Malleck was lost before the season to injury. Malleck is back, and healthy, and Kalvin Cline gained valuable experience last season. Expect both to see plenty of action, and to join with freshman WR Isaiah Ford as some of Brewer’s favorite targets downfield.