William and Mary football has long been a source of great pride for the College, as the program has consistently achieved tremendous success on the field while producing exceptional people in the community. W&M's proud tradition includes 74 All-Americans, nine NCAA Playoff appearances, eight conference championships and a national player of the year. In just the last three years, Tribe fans have witnessed the Green and Gold achieve a No. 1 national ranking, a berth in the NCAA Semifinals and a Colonial Athletic Association title. Additionally, seven W&M players have gone on to sign NFL contracts during the past four years.
While the College's recent success has only strengthened an exceptional legacy, the 2012 edition of the Tribe will look to create its own history during the upcoming campaign. Undoubtedly, the graduation of one of W&M's most talented and successful senior classes will present a challenge - as will a schedule that includes ACC foe Maryland and a league slate that ranks among the nation's toughest. Fortunately, the Tribe is stocked with a bevy of talented players eager and well equipped to seize the opportunity.
Leading W&M this season will be a pair of senior co-captains in linebacker Jabrel Mines and strong safety Brian Thompson. Both standouts earned all-conference honors last fall and will be instrumental in helping anchor a defense that ranked as the CAA's third-best squad in both scoring defense and total defense last year. The unit will also rely heavily on senior cornerback B.W. Webb and senior linebacker Dante Cook. Having garnered six All-CAA postseason honors during his career, Webb has established himself as one of the nation's top cornerbacks during the past few seasons. Although Cook battled injuries last fall, he was a second-team all-conference selection as a sophomore when he played middle linebacker - a position he will return to this fall after moving to outside linebacker last season.
After averaging 26 points per game during the final five contests in 2011, the Tribe's offense will look to continue building upon where it left off last season. Junior quarterbacks Brent Caprio and Michael Graham combined to earn seven starts last season and should benefit greatly from that experience during the upcoming campaign. Certainly, the loss of a pair of All-Americans in running back Jonathan Grimes and tight end Alex Gottlieb to graduation will present a challenge, but W&M is well stocked to reload.
Although injuries limited wide receiver Ryan Moody to just six games last season, he will return to full strength for his senior season and will lead an explosive receiving corps. Anchoring the offense line will be a talented and experienced quartet of returning starters. In addition to ranking second in the CAA in fewest sacks allowed last season, the group helped Grimes lead the nation in all-purpose yards per game and rank fifth in rushing yards per game.
Perhaps the most interesting positional battle during fall camp will come at quarterback, where juniors Brent Caprio (6-1, 212) and Michael Graham (6-4, 224), as well as talented sophomore Raphael Ortiz (6-3, 220), will vie for the starting spot. Caprio and Graham combined for seven starts last year and finished the season by completing 68.1 percent of their passes and recording a 148.1 pass efficiency rating during the final five contests - figures that both ranked second in the CAA during that span.
The most experienced player among the trio is Caprio, who earned starts in four games last season, including the final three. A mobile quarterback who has the ability to throw accurately outside the pocket, Caprio showed tremendous improvement as he gained game experience in 2011 and finished the season ranked fourth in passing efficiency (131.4) among CAA signal callers. Highlighting his sophomore campaign was the performance in the season-ending victory at Richmond. In the contest, he engineered a 17-play, 74-yard game-winning drive that culminated with a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nolan Kearney with just two seconds remaining. If the two-time CAA Academic All-Conference selection can continue to display the accuracy he showed last season when he completed 64 percent of his passes, and limit his turnovers, he will make a strong bid for the starting role.
Prior to suffering a season-ending injury to his throwing hand during the Towson game last fall, Graham had emerged as a solid performer for the Tribe. The Charlottesville, Va., native appeared in five games and logged three starts while completing 55-of-92 passes for 787 yards. Unfortunately, he suffered the season-ending injury while in the midst of the best performance of his career, completing 19-of-26 passes for 227 yards with two touchdowns. An accurate pocket passer with good size and arm strength, Graham made a healthy return to the field in the spring spring and is well positioned to battle for the starting role.
Although he appeared in just one contest during his redshirt freshman season, Ortiz has all the tools to be an impact player. Standing at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, the Rahway, N.J., native possesses good size and has displayed impressive presence in the pocket. Additionally, both his arm strength and mobility could make him an attractive option under center.
Providing depth at the position will be redshirt freshman Christian Brumbaugh (6-4, 210), who earned W&M Scout Team Offensive Player of the Year distinction last season. A highly touted prep player at South Fayette High School (McDonald, Pa.), he finished his prep career as the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League's (WPIAL) all-time passing leader with 7,164 yards and threw 72 touchdown passes.
Replacing the program's all-time leading rusher in Grimes will pose a significant challenge this fall, but the tandem of sophomore Keith McBride II (6-0, 215) and senior Meltoya Jones (5-9, 215) have the talent necessary to provide the team with tremendous production at the running back position. Further bolstering the unit will be short-yardage specialist sophomore Darnell Laws (6-0, 218), as well as sophomore speedster Jarrell Cooper (5-9, 185) and redshirt freshman Mikal Abdul-Saboor (5-11, 215).
After transferring from Navy, McBride made an immediate impact last season, averaging 5.0 yards per carry en route to finishing the year with 281 rushing yards (on 56 carries with two touchdowns). Gifted with exceptional speed and great vision, he possesses big-play ability, which he demonstrated with his electric 50-yard touchdown run in the win against sixth-ranked New Hampshire last season. A former 200-meter state champion in high school (21.0), the Collierville, Tenn., native also possesses good hands and has shown an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Although he has spent his entire collegiate career as a reserve behind Grimes, Jones is the team's most experienced returning tailback with appearances in 26 games. Jones' greatest asset is his athleticism and burst, while he also has good ball skills. Those talents were on display during W&M's victory against Richmond in 2010 when he rushed for 54 yards on just five carries. The Hampton, Va., native was also impressive in W&M's spring game this year when he was the contest's leading rusher and recorded a 6-yard touchdown run.
Laws is the squad's biggest back and is a powerful downhill runner who will be a short-yardage specialist. Although he logged just six carries as a redshirt freshman last fall, his workload should increase significantly during the upcoming campaign.
Cooper and Abdul-Saboor are both talented young running backs who will add valuable depth to the position. Although he stands at just 5-8, 185, Cooper possesses great quickness and vision, which makes him very elusive in the open field. A converted quarterback, Abdul-Saboor is a physical runner who has great vision, allowing him to blend power with elusiveness.
A valuable component of the Tribe's rushing attack will be the blocking of senior fullback TJ Ptachick (6-2, 240), who is primed to make a significant impact after serving as a reserve last season. The CAA Academic All-Conference team selection has displayed tremendous work ethic in the weight room and brings a physical presence to the position. Redshirt freshman Andrew Weidinger (6-0, 240) and sophomore Levi Cohen (5-11, 225) will add depth to the fullback spot and have both displayed the ability to make contributions. Honored as the W&M QB Club Scout Team Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, Weidinger made the move from linebacker to fullback in the spring and has displayed an aggressive style that makes him a great fit for his new position. Cohen is unselfish player who is consistently solid in alignments and assignments.
Led by senior Ryan Moody (5-11, 175) and sophomore standout Tre McBride (6-1, 190), the Tribe wide receiving corps has the look of a unit ready to provide significant production this fall. Adding depth behind the projected starters are a pair of seniors in Joey Brady (6-3, 210) and C.J. Thomas (6-2, 215), while sophomore Sean Ballard (6-0, 190) redshirt freshman Zack Fetters (6-3, 210) will also vie for reps.
After overcoming a serious knee injury in the spring of 2011, Moody was limited last fall and returned for just six games, earning three starts. Although he was unable to match the production of his brilliant sophomore campaign in which he earned second-team all-conference honors, he fought through the physical limitations and managed to make an impact in a limited role. Highlighting his 2011 season was his performance against James Madison, when he came off the bench to haul in three catches for 82 yards in the second half. An athletic wide receiver with exceptional hands, Moody returned to full strength in the spring and should reestablish himself as one of the CAA's top playmakers this fall.
With a year of game experience under his belt, McBride will likely move into a starting role this fall and appears poised for a breakout sophomore season. A fast, athletic wideout with good hands and playmaking abilities, the McDonough, Ga., native became the first W&M true freshman wide receiver to see the field since D.J. McAulay in 2005. McBride closed out the 2011 season in impressive fashion, as he totaled six catches for 90 yards in the final two games en route to earning W&M QB Club Rookie of the Year honors.
Brady and Thomas will provide big targets for the Tribe's quarterback this season, as both possess sturdy 6-foot-3 frames and good hands. Although both have been reserves during the past few seasons, Brady has a good knowledge of the Tribe's attack and is a very consistent route-runner while Thomas is an extremely athletic player who has shown flashes of big-play capabilities in practice.
Although Ballard appeared in just two games last season and Fetters was a member of the scout team, both have demonstrated an ability to make an impact if called upon. Ballard displayed a glimpse of his potential in the spring game when he finished as the contest's leader in receiving yards.
The graduation of two-time All-American and current member of the Detroit Lions, Alex Gottlieb, leaves the Tribe with a big hole to fill in both the passing and running games. The most likely candidate to step into the role will be senior Nolan Kearney (6-4, 250). The converted quarterback saw action in all 11 games last season and earned a pair of starts en route to finishing with a pair of touchdowns - the second of which was a game-winning score with just two seconds remaining in the comeback victory at Richmond. A big, athletic player with good hands, Kearney is a versatile player who is equally as effective blocking as he is working underneath coverages.
Providing depth at tight end will be sophomore Bo Revell (6-6, 260) and junior Robert Asmar (6-4, 240). Like Kearney, Revell is a converted quarterback who possesses outstanding size and turned in an excellent spring as he improved both his route running and his blocking technique. The Haymarket, Va., native has reliable hands and provides a big target in the open field. Challenging for the backup tight end spot is Asmar, who has steadily improved during his time at the College and has the tools to make a contribution. The walk-on has worked his way into the mix by translating his gains in the weight room into production on the practice field.
There reason for great optimism along W&M's front line heading into the fall, as four of five starters return from last season's unit that ranked second in the CAA in fewest sacks allowed and helped Grimes lead the nation in all-purpose yards per game and rank fifth in rushing yards per game. Replacing first-team all-conference center James Pagliaro appears to be the unit's biggest concern, but junior Matt Crisafi (6-4, 302) is well equipped to handle the challenge. Having earned starts in 18 games at both guard and tackle positions during the past two seasons, Crisafi is the front five's most versatile player and well equipped to assume the starting center duties. The two-time CAA Academic All-Conference team selection is very consistent in alignments and assignments and has demonstrated strong leadership abilities. Junior Callen Larus (6-4, 295) has shown great improvement during the past few seasons and is slated to fill the backup center spot.
Juniors Trevor Springman (6-4, 293) and James Johnson III (6-2, 290) are slotted to start at the guard positions. After starting all 11 games at right guard last season, Springman saw some action at tackle during the spring but will return to his natural position this fall. A CAA Academic All-Conference team selection, Springman is the offensive line's strongest player and was this year's recipient of the John A. Stewart Winter Warrior Award, which is given annually to the player who demonstrates excellence both on the field and in the off-season training program. After entering W&M as a walk-on, Johnson earned a scholarship last spring and has totaled 15 starts at left guard during the past two seasons. Johnson plays with an aggressive style and has demonstrated outstanding work.
Sophomore Baron Goodman (6-4, 295) and redshirt freshman Andrew Jones (6-1, 275) will serve as the backup right and left guards, respectively, as the team enters fall camp. Goodman is a quality reserve who saw action in just one game last season but has worked extremely hard in both the film room and weight room and has positioned himself for an increased role during the upcoming campaign. Jones is a quick, aggressive young player who has good feet and hand placement and will have the opportunity to be an impact player with continued development.
W&M's front line will be bookended by a pair of talented and experienced veterans in seniors Mike Salazar (6-5, 308) and Robert Gumbita (6-5, 300). Having earned starts in all 23 games during the past two seasons, Salazar will once again occupy the left tackle spot this fall - the position at which he started all 11 games last season. Although he missed the spring due to injury, he is expected to make a healthy return this fall and should contend for all-conference honors. Like Salazar, Gumbita missed the spring but should be at full strength when the team reports for camp in August. A smart and consistent performer, Gumbita possesses great size and reach and has earned eight starts during his career.
Redshirt freshmen Nick Easter (6-3, 286) and Zach Mahfood (6-3, 295) were both members of the scout team in 2011 but are in line to serve as backup tackles this fall. Both players possess outstanding work ethic and gained tremendous experience in the spring.
A major factor in helping W&M rank as the CAA's third-best squad in both scoring defense and total defense last season was the play of the defensive line. The same should hold true again this season, as the durability and success of the Tribe's front four will be instrumental in the defense's ability to shut down opponents. Despite the loss of two starters from last year's unit, the Tribe has ample talent to once again consistently control the line of scrimmage.
Occupying the two starting end spots will be junior Bryan Stinnie (6-4, 255) and sophomore Stephen Sinnott (6-4, 245). Although injuries forced Stinnie to miss the final seven games in 2011 as well as the entire spring camp, he should be at full strength this fall and ready to reclaim the starting spot he held at the beginning of his sophomore season. A big, strong, athletic player, Stinnie has all the physical tools that could enable him to establish himself as one of the league's top defensive ends in 2012. After playing in all 11 games and earning eight starts as a redshirt freshman last season, Sinnott is also poised for a breakout season. A solid all-around player with good football instincts, Sinnott worked hard to develop his pass rush in the spring and has quickly developed into a more complete player.
Despite entering fall camp as reserves, junior Quincey September (6-3, 225) and sophomore Mike Reilly (6-4, 265) are both proven performers who should earn significant playing time in 2012. After converting to the end position from linebacker in the spring, September quickly developed with every practice. A natural fit at his new position, the 6-foot-3, 222-pound native of Kwazula Natal, South Africa has good upside as a pass rusher and will look to continue adding strength. He saw action in all 11 games last season and made an impact on special teams with a pair of blocks. Additionally, he posted a standout performance in the spring game and earned a sack, two tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal. Reilly possesses great strength and is a very physical player, which makes him difficult to block. Last season, the Old Tappan, N.J., native earned significant playing time as a reserve and garnered quality game experience that should benefit him during the upcoming campaign.
Providing depth at defensive end will be redshirt freshman Braxton Hicks (6-4, 235), who is a long, athletic player who was a member of the scout team last season and will look to continue building strength.
Led by junior standout George Beerhalter (6-3, 280), the Tribe returns three players with significant game experience at the defensive tackle position. A starter in all 11 games last season, Beerhalter is a proven performer who plays with a high motor and will likely challenge for postseason honors. Although he missed the spring with injury, he expects a healthy return this fall and will look to build upon the impressive numbers he posted as a sophomore (8.0 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, 2 FF). Also expected to start at tackle is senior Nick Zaremba (6-2, 265). After appearing in all 11 games as a reserve last season, the Fredericksburg, Va., native possesses good strength as well as an outstanding motor and turned in an impressive spring. Sophomore Jasper Coleman (6-4, 285) should also play a significant role and could challenge for a starting spot. The Richmond, Va., native is athletic with great size and power, and he has all the tools to be an impact player. Last season, Coleman was one of just two Tribe freshman to earn playing time.
Undoubtedly, one of the Tribe's areas of greatest strength this season will be its linebacking unit. Senior co-captain Jabrel Mines (6-0, 215) and classmate Dante Cook (5-11, 222) are both talented veterans who will lead the group, while sophomore Airek Green (6-1, 210) is in line to start at one of the outside linebacker positions.
In addition to his outstanding leadership skills, Mines has been one of the Tribe's most productive defensive players during the past two seasons. As a junior, Mines garnered third-team All-CAA distinction and was honored as the W&M QB Club Defensive Player of the Year after totaling a team-high 109 tackles with 8.0 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. A strong, active linebacker who has excellent ability to pursue the football, Mines should once again challenge for postseason honors and will be a major factor in determining the Tribe's success defensively.
After earning second-team all-conference honors in 2010, Cook entered his junior campaign with high expectations and garnered preseason All-America accolades from The Sports Network. However, injuries limited the Fredericksburg, Va., native to just eight games last season and curbed his production significantly. Fully healed, Cook will make the move back to inside linebacker - where he excelled as a sophomore - this fall and should reestablish himself as one of the nation's top players.
Although Green missed the entire 2011 season, he earned playing time in 10 games as a true freshman in 2010. A converted defensive back, Green is an exceptionally athletic talent who has the ability to impact the game in a number of ways. After a solid spring camp, he will look to secure a starting role this fall.
Junior Ben Casper (6-1, 225), sophomore Alex Goodman (6-0, 225) and redshirt freshman Luke Rhodes (6-2, 230) will all provide valuable depth at the linebacker position. After backing up at middle linebacker for each of the past two years, Casper will likely fill that role again this season. The former W&M Scout Team Defensive Player of the Year (2009) is a tough, hard-working player who has developed into a quality performer. Goodman saw action in seven games as a reserve outside linebacker and on special teams last season. A strong, athletic player, Goodman has continued to develop well and should make an impact this fall. After a very productive offseason in the weight room, Rhodes has quickly emerged as a potential contributor and will look to earn his first game action in 2012.
Led by preseason all-conference selections, senior cornerback B.W. Webb (5-11, 180) and senior strong safety co-captain Brian Thompson (5-11, 215), the Tribe's secondary will be anchored by two of the nation's top players at their position.
Having earned six career postseason All-CAA honors during his career, Webb enters his senior season having established himself as one of the league's most accomplished players. A first-team all-conference cornerback during each of the past two seasons, the Newport News, Va., native ranks tied for eighth on W&M's career interceptions list (11). Webb is a confident, gifted athlete who possesses tremendous speed and excellent ball skills and will likely get the opportunity to play on Sundays when his career at the College comes to a close.
Slated to start opposite Webb is redshirt freshman DeAndre Houston-Carson (6-1, 190). An exceptionally talented young player, the Woodford, Va., native has developed quickly and possesses very good technique. Additionally, he is an outstanding athlete who uses his 6-foot-1 frame to his advantage. Although he did not log any game action during his true freshman season, he was a member of the travel squad for all 11 games.
Junior Ryan Smith (5-10, 180) and sophomore Jesse McNeal III (5-11, 180) will enter the fall as capable reserves who could make an impact. Smith worked hard to improve his skill set during the offseason and has a good understanding of the defense. He capped off a solid spring camp with a pair of interceptions in the spring game. McNeal will look to earn his first game action this fall as he works his way back into the mix after missing the entire 2011 season. The Spotsylvania, Va., native has good feet and hips and was a 6-10 high jumper in high school.
A fixture at the starting strong safety spot for each of the past two seasons, Thompson will return to the role this fall after earning second-team all-league honors. A versatile player, Thompson moved down to an outside linebacker position for three games last season and excelled when an injury sidelined Cook. Thompson is a strong, fast, aggressive and durable player who has demonstrated the ability to excel in both coverage and at the point of attack.
Having gained significant game experience during the past two seasons, junior Jerome Couplin III (6-2, 210) moved into the starting free safety spot for the final six games last season and should continue to maintain that role this fall. The Upper Marlboro, Md., native is a long, athletic player who can cover significant ground. Additionally, he blends good anticipation in the deep middle of the defense and possesses outstanding ball skills.
Senior Ethan Lee (5-11, 182) and sophomore Ivan Tagoe (6-1, 220) will serve as the primary backups at the free and strong safety positions, respectively. Lee is smart, veteran player who has earned playing time in 33 games during his career, mostly coming on special teams. The Buckingham, Va., native has good footwork and speed and is consistent in his effort and assignments. Tagoe is a talented young player who has the potential to become one of the CAA's top safeties. Tagoe possesses good size and combines a physical style with good range. He earned playing time in 10 games, with one start, last season and finished the year with a pair of interceptions.
Sophomore Jordan King (5-10, 195), a converted wide receiver, and highly-touted redshirt freshman Jared Velasquez (6-0, 200) are both physical players who will likely make their biggest impact on special teams as they continue to develop.
As was the case last season, junior Drake Kuhn (5-10, 185) will once again handle the placekicking and punting duties. A consistent and reliable performer, Kuhn has connected on 23 field goals during the past two seasons and already ranks eighth on W&M's all-time list. Additionally, the Williamsburg, Va., native has made 19 of his last 23 field goal attempts dating back to the end of his freshman season.
Talented sophomore John Carpenter will add depth at both the kicker and punter positions this fall. The Cumberland, Md., native has shown a big leg on kickoffs and connected on 4-of-5 field goal attempts, including a long of 53 yards, during the spring game. A highly touted prep kicker at Allegany High School (Cumberland, Md.), Carpenter was a consensus first-team all-state selection in 2009.
With the graduation of Grimes, W&M's all-time leader in kickoff return yards, the role of returner will be taken on by running backs Meltoya Jones and Keith McBride II. Both players have handled the return duties in limited roles in the past and possess the necessary tools to excel.
B.W. Webb, who has earned multiple all-conference accolades on special teams during his career, will once again handle the punt returning duties. With 481 career punt return yards, he needs just 41 more yards to pass Chip Young for third on the program's all-time list.