W&M Spring Game: Shon Mitchell at QB for William and Mary (Photo courtesy of William and Mary Athletics)
The quest for the next QB at William and Mary QB is underway
by Jim McGrath, recruit757
After the Green team of William and Mary had handily defeated the White squad 24-0 on Saturday, an outsider might have assumed that the White team played like they couldn’t move the football.
In fact, they could not. Since the offense dressed in green uniforms, and the defense in white, only one squad ran offensive plays, essentially guaranteeing a win for the Green team. With the victory in hand, Saturday’s spring game, held at the newly renovated Zable Stadium, was more about execution. And how well the offense could run its plays
Perhaps Steve Cluley, who graduated last year after three seasons as the Tribe’s starting quarterback, could shed some light on what head coach Jimmye Laycock will look for in his next starter.
“Someone who is confident, and a great leader. If he’s not already that, then he should be on the way. He should be prepared and be ready to accept criticism. Take the advice and run with it, as it’s for your benefit. And take each play one at a time,” said Cluley, who was in the press box for the first half of the game.
More importantly, Saturday served as the first step for the Tribe finding its new starter behind center. And while five QB’s rotated throughout the W&M Spring Game, redshirt freshman Ted Hefter of Bethesda, MD provided the standout performance for the Tribe.
Hefter completed 10 of his first 11 passes, and finished the day 10 for 13 for 132 yards and a pair of touchdown passes, both to another redshirt freshman, tight end Josh Stallings.
The first touchdown was a 26-yarder which came on the Green’s team’s second possession. Hefter found Stallings wide open over the middle for the score.
The second touchdown, also on an over the middle pass to Stallings, came on the heels of the day’s highlight play – a backward, hands way above head, grab that defied logic as well as gravity. The catch came from yet another redshirt freshman, receiver Gunnar Frerotte.
Stallings finished the day with five receptions for 87 yards. Star receiver DeVonte Dedmon, from Warhill High in Williamsburg, added four catches for 59.
One of the more anticipated moments of the game occurred on the third possession when freshman Shon Mitchell entered at quarterback for the Tribe. Mitchell, who just last December led Oscar Smith High to the 6A state championship left the Tigers with possession of the Virginia prep state records for touchdowns and completions.
He graduated from high school in December and enrolled at William and Mary for the second semester, making him eligible to take part in spring practice.
It has been an interesting transition, to say the least.
“It was like I was in high school on Thursday and college on Friday,” said Mitchell, who finished the day by completing seven of 14 passes for 68 yards. “You have to roll with the punches.”
However, the true freshman is finding a solid support system among his new Tribe teammates.
“We have a good support system here. It’s family-oriented, like a brotherhood, and everyone has my back,” he added.
However, the support system at William and Mary is missing a key link. For months, the Tribe has been without an offensive coordinator, ever since late February when Kevin Rogers resigned. Rogers, 65, had NFL experience sandwiched between his two stints with Jimmye Laycock’s team, and felt that “the time was right” to resign, leaving Laycock, and the offense, without a mentor.
That, like many other things, doesn’t seem to faze the remarkably poised Mitchell.
“Our quarterback coach (D.J. Mangus) has been figuring everything out. He is also coaching the running backs, and doing a phenomenal job. He has made the transition a lot easier for me.”
As far as the game itself, Mitchell as less impressed.
“I did OK. It was my first live action and there is room for improvement. I left some plays out there.”
In fact, it was the first live action for the entire team, which concluded its run of 15 spring practices with Saturday’s game.
Unfortunately, the three weeks of practice didn’t serve well enough to answer all of Coach Laycock’s questions, especially with the quarterback position.
“I thought all of them played well,” said Laycock, who evenly rotated among Hefter, Mitchell, junior Tommy McKee (who played the first possession), Dean Rotger and Brandon Battle. Battle threw the game’s other touchdown pass, a 31-yarder down the left sideline to Anthony Mague, who wrestled the ball from a defender on the way down from his leaping catch. Kris Hooper added a 35-yard field goal to complete the scoring, which all occurred in the first half.
However, the Tribe must make some decisions about their new signal caller, and soon.
“The problem is getting everybody enough reps,” added Laycock, who will begin his 38th season at the helm this fall. “Obviously, we have to narrow it down to two or three before we begin in the fall and work from there.”
After winning 240 games at W&M, and mentoring two NFL head coaches (Mike Tomlin and Sean McDermott are former Tribe players), Laycock is even-keeled when thinking about his current dilemma.
“I’ve seen a lot of things over the years,” said Laycock, with a sly grin. With the recent retirements of fellow coaching lifers Andy Talley (37 years at Villanova) and Walt Hameline (35 years at Wagner), Laycock is the last man standing among FCS coaches. Asked how he feels about the status, the 69-year old said. “When they do well, I feel young. When they do bad, I feel old. But I feel fine.”
William and Mary also used the opportunity to name its captains for the 2017 season. They are seniors — defensive end Matt Ahola (Springfield, VA), tight end Andrew Caskin (Rockville, MD), offensive lineman Connor Hilland (Stafford, VA), and cornerback Aaron Swinton (Lancaster, PA). Ahola, a graduate of West Springfield High, also won the team’s Winter Warrior award for his offseason work.
GREEN 10, 14, 0, 0 — 24
WHITE 0, 0, 0, 0 – 0
The Tribe will open their season on the road against Virginia on September 2. The William and Mary 2017 schedule can be found at http://www.tribeathletics.com/schedule.aspx?path=football.