The 2009 football season is just three short days away for the Virginia Cavaliers.
William and Mary boasts plenty of talent and returns 15 starters (seven on offense, eight on defense), but there are reasons to make me believe that the Tribe will not give the Cavaliers too much trouble.
Say what you will about the Tribe’s ranking in the FCS Coaches Preseason Poll (14th), and their five College Sporting News Preseason All-Americans, but I just do not see William and Mary keeping this one close.
William and Mary’s offense will be very shaky.
Tribe head coach Jimmye Laycock was not impressed with his offense after a recent August scrimmage and had to stretch to find something positive to say.
“Offensively, we were very spotty this evening. One positive was that we got everyone in and got a lot of reps for different people, but we had too many dropped passes. As the evening wore on, our protection started breaking down. As we move closer to game week, there will be plenty of things we need to focus on improving as we are getting ready for the opener.”
More specifically, there are certain positions that should pose concerns for the Tribe faithful.
QB R.J. Archer
Archer, who attended nearby Albermarle High School, will have something of a homecoming on Saturday when he arrives in Charlottesville.
Unfortunately, his visit looks rather ominous.
Archer has not looked good this off-season. During the team’s spring game, Archer completed a modest six of 11 passes. Matt Poms, a writer for William and Mary’s student newspaper The Flat Hat, said that during the scrimmage Archer “looked erratic, while being frequently harried by opposing defenders, missing several open receivers.”
After the scrimmage, Archer had the following to say about William and Mary’s defense: “It’s really tough to play against them, and it’s only making us better because I don’t know how many defenses like that we are going to see in our conference. Today was one of the days when they were really playing fast. It’s tough to keep up with them.”
While he may not see many defenses like that in his conference, I have a hunch that he might see a better one during out of conference play.
R.J. has started only one collegiate game at quarterback. In his lone start against Villanova last year, Archer completed 21 of 37 passes for 307 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Those numbers are nothing to scoff at, until you learn that Villanova finished 79th out of 118 FCS teams in passing efficiency defense. Quarterbacks completed 62 percent of their passes last year against Villanova, and threw for 23 touchdowns compared to only 14 interceptions.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Virginia’s secondary will be better than Villanova’s and Archer will struggle. Welcome to the big time.
RB Jonathan Grimes
2008 CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year. 2008 Honorable Mention National Rookie of the Year. 2009 CAA Preseason 1st Team All-Conference. 2009 Preseason Honorable Mention All-American.
He has the resume, but there are a couple of factors that lead me to believe that he will struggle against a better than expected Virginia defense.
He is not very fast. Grimes only runs a 4.65 in the 40. To put that in perspective, former Virginia QB Peter Lalich, who was not known for taking care of his body, clocked the same time. More importantly, Grimes disappeared last year when William and Mary needed him most.
In their final regular season game, the Tribe faced the Richmond Spiders in a critical game. All the Tribe needed to do was win, and they almost certainly would have made the FCS Playoffs. Instead, the Tribe lost in double overtime. Grimes carried the ball 19 times, but only accumulated 52 yards and did not find the endzone. Richmond had a very stout defense, but Grimes will find his struggles magnified against Virginia’s defense.
The Tribe returns some very solid receivers, but they will face the best secondary in the ACC.
Senior D.J. McAuley will be the number one receiver for William and Mary. Last year, he caught 40 balls for 718 yards and eight TD’s. McAuley also has been clocked in the 100M in 10.5 seconds.
Unfortunately for McAuley and the rest of the Tribe receivers, Ras-I Dowling has a history of shutting down speedy receivers. Last year, Virginia faced Maryland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey. For those of you who have been living under a rock, Heyward-Bey was selected 7th overall in the 2009 NFL draft, and has run the 40 in 4.23 seconds.
But on that beautiful October night, Dowling denied Heyward-Bey the ball time and time again. Ras-I finished the night with one interception. Heyward-Bey did not make it into the box score.
Offensively, this looks to be a disaster for the Tribe. They are breaking in a new quarterback against a very good secondary. If Grimes can’t run against the eight men that will likely be stacked in the box, then this may very well be a shutout.
The Tribe defense should be very good, as they return eight players (including 1st Team Preseason All-American DE Adrian Tracy), but they won’t be able to hold the Cavaliers below double digits.
Many mention the Tribe's effort against the N.C. State Wolfpack when defending the legitimacy of William and Mary football. But Russell Wilson didn't play in that game and the Tribe still lost by ten; so go ahead and throw that argument out the window.
Virginia is breaking in a new offensive system in this game, and the Cavalier offense features many young players. But points will not be hard to come by as the Hoos will find the end-zone plenty of times. If Vic Hall can torch the Hokies defense for 109 yards and two touchdowns, then I see no reason why he won’t be able to rack up some yards against the Tribe.
Hoos 27 - Tribe 3