The Tribe's offensive assault begins with first-team All-CAA running back Jonathan Grimes. The Palmyra, N.J. junior set the school record for single-season rushing attempts (277) and amassed the third-highest single-season rushing total (1,294) in '09, while also scoring 10 touchdowns and setting a single-season school record with 2,043 all-purpose yards.
Grimes is one of six returning starters for an offense that ranked 33rd nationally (369.9 total yards per game) in FCS play last season, but offensive coordinator Zbig Kepa has his hands full in replacing All-CAA quarterback R.J. Archer (261-of-433 passing, 2,778 yards, 16 TD, 9 INT). UNC transfer Mike Paulus and red-shirt freshman Brent Caprio battled for the job in the spring, and senior Mike Callahan and junior D.J. Mangas will join the fray after missing spring ball due to injuries. None of the four candidates took a collegiate snap in '09, but Kepa has a unique ability with quarterbacks in his system – a Tribe quarterback has earned all-conference honors in 12 of the last 17 seasons.
William & Mary returns six starters from a defense that finished the '09 season ranked in the top-3 nationally in four categories – rushing defense (61.1 ypg, 1st), total defense (229.8 ypg, 2nd), scoring defense (12.1 ppg, 2nd) and sacks (3.4, 3rd). The Tribe will have to replace a pair of All-Americans and NFL draft picks in defensive linemen Sean Lissemore and Adrian Tracy, but All-American candidate Jake Trantin (90 tkl, 10.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 3 INT) is the lynchpin at middle linebacker. Linebacker Evan Franks returns as the unit's second-leading tackler (89 tkl, 7.5 TFL), while senior captain Ben Cottingham (32 tkl) and CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year B.W. Webb (23 tkl, 8 INT) anchor the secondary at cornerback.
Quotable: "Preseason rankings are really just a reflection of what was accomplished last season. While it is great to be recognized, every team and every year is different. This year's team is working extremely hard to reach its own potential and stay focused on preparing for the season ahead." – Laycock
Matchup to Watch: North Carolina ranked 10th nationally in run defense last fall, allowing just 95.6 yards per outing, but the Tar Heels will be missing three important pieces to that stout frontline this season in tackles Cam Thomas and Al Mullins and end E.J. Wilson. William & Mary rode Jonathan Grimes's broad shoulders to 167.4 yards per outing, good for 26th nationally in FCS rankings. The Tribe return three starters along the offensive line, led by senior tackle Keith Hill, Jr. and his 24 games of starting experience. If the Tar Heels are able to limit Grimes's production, defensive line coach John Blake's pass rushing freaks will make the first-year starting quarterback's afternoon painfully exhausting.
Remember Me? With more than 30 scholarship offers on the table, including Southern California, Alabama and LSU, Mike Paulus committed to John Bunting's staff at North Carolina on Apr. 28, 2006. Scout.com's 11th-ranked quarterback in the nation stepped up in the pocket and helped build a strong recruiting class that withstood Bunting's firing and the arrival of the Butch Davis era in Chapel Hill. Paulus's decision to attend UNC signaled the most high-profile quarterback commitment since Ronald Curry nearly a decade prior, but that hype never materialized onto the field. The Syracuse, N.Y. native earned his first start at Miami following T.J. Yates's ankle injury the week before against Virginia Tech in '08, but Cam Sexton was more productive off the bench and claimed the quarterback job until Yates was able to return.
After freshman Bryn Renner moved up the depth chart ahead of Paulus last fall, the red-shirt sophomore made the decision to transfer to William & Mary, helped in part by UNC offensive coordinator John Shoop's ties to the program – brother Bob Shoop is the Tribe's defensive coordinator. Paulus will have two years of eligibility remaining and is currently entrenched in a battle for the starting quarterback position.
2010 Schedule Sept. 4 @ Massachusetts Sept. 11 VMI Sept. 18 @ Old Dominion Sept. 25 @ Maine Oct. 2 Villanova Oct. 9 Rhode Island Oct. 16 OPEN DATE Oct. 23 Delaware Oct. 30 @ North Carolina Nov. 6 @ New Hampshire Nov. 13 @ James Madison Nov. 20 Richmond