Two games are too small a sample size to become discouraged about William and Mary’s offense, but several characteristics are apparent.
Inconsistency at quarterback and receiver greatly reduces the margin for error, regardless of whether said inconsistency is due to injury, lack of production or anxiety about the new iPhone5.
The Tribe must crank up its running game. This seems counter-intuitive the year after all-timer Jon Grimes graduated, but W&M has three quality backs and its best offensive line in maybe a decade.
William and Mary must be balanced, get good at several things and pick its spots to take shots downfield. Converting those big-play attempts would be helpful, as well.
“Moving around and play-action and mis-direction, and if we can run the ball, that’s our game right now,” offensive coordinator Zbig Kepa said. “Dropping back and just picking people apart, I don’t know if we’ve got that guy. It’s not like we have Lang Campbell back there. We do the drop-back passing stuff in practice, but it’s not like the old days.”
Kepa, in his 29th season, was part of the old days, from Stan Yagiello and Kenny Lambiotte to Chris Hakel and Shawn Knight and Mike Cook, to David Corley and the aforementioned Campbell, the 2004 Payton Award winner as the top offensive player in FCS.
The Tribe already has played three quarterbacks, and it’s likely a gametime decision about who starts Saturday at defending CAA champ and preseason fave Towson (sorry, but that just sounds weird). Juniors Michael Graham and Brent Caprio have been hobbled, Graham with a foot injury dating back to preseason and Caprio with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder in the opener at Maryland.
Soph Raphael Ortiz, the most mobile of the three, has played in both games and is healthy, but is a shade more inconsistent than the other two, due largely to inexperience.
“You wish one of these quarterbacks would be the guy,” Kepa said. “So you can build quarter-to-quarter and game-to-game, and practice consistency. The chemistry would build from there with all the guys, the leadership and everything. Having guys in and out at that position doesn’t help.”
The Tribe is averaging just 213 yards of offense in its first two games. W&M played conservatively in the 7-6 loss at Maryland, relying on defense and field position, but the offense was a rusted ’87 Buick in last week’s 17-14 loss to Lafayette.
Kepa said that the staff has tweaked the weekly offensive routine in an attempt to improve communication. Quarterbacks and receivers watch game and practice video together and discuss what they see. The QBs and receivers obviously work together on the field, but each quarterback sees things and operates a bit differently.
“It might be something as simple as a different (snap) cadence or different volume,” Kepa said.
“Adding more as you go maybe isn’t the way to go,” he said. “Maybe you pare down and really get good at something. Get more reps at something. Maybe that’s missing. Instead of getting a rep here and there at something, you just rep out at some things so that it slows down a little more and you get better at it.”
Sophomore Tre McBride has been the top receiving threat the first two games, with 11 catches for a 17.1-yard average and two touchdowns. But he’s also had a couple of drops that might have jump-started the offense.
The puzzle so far has been senior Ryan Moody. The senior, coming off injury last season, has just one catch in the first two games. He was second-team all-conference in 2010 and has demonstrated the ability to make plays and battle defenders.
Head coach Jimmye Laycock said this week that Moody remains an important part of the offense, but that he must catch balls and not improvise on pass routes.
“He’s very capable of being the go-to guy,” Kepa said. “He’s got to not think the game too much, and just go play the game. I think there are times when he thinks: this quarterback is thinking this, so I’ll do that; or this quarterback is going to scramble earlier, so I’ll do this. Just go and do your thing and do it right and they’ll find you. If they don’t, we’ll make sure we’ll hammer it home.”
Kepa remains encouraged, and warned of the offensive players worried about being too fine, too precise.
“It’s not that far,” Kepa said. “Hey, if a guy’s open, throw it to him. Sometimes you’ve just got to play football. You play the game, turn it loose and play. You’re going to make mistakes. Fine. Don’t be scared of doing something wrong. Just play.”Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times