William & Mary ranks No. 7 in HERO Sports’ FCS Preseason Top 25.
The Tribe lost 55-7 at No. 4 seed Montana State in the 2022 FCS quarterfinals as the No. 5 seed. They finished 11-2 overall.
Here’s a look at this year’s William & Mary football squad.
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Returning 2022 FCS All-Conference Players (7)
RB Bronson Yoder
OL Charles Grant
DL Nate Lynn
LB John Pius
CB Ryan Poole
LB Isaiah Jones
CB Jalen Jones
Players In 2023 FCS Positional Rankings (7)
Transfer Portal Movement
Transfers Lost To The FBS (2)
Ethan Chang (K) to Mississippi State
Donavyn Lester (RB) to UNLV
Transfers Coming In From The FCS (1)
Tyler Payne (OL), Davidson
The Tribe returns 15 offensive and defensive starters from last year’s squad that equaled a school-record 11 wins.
W&M’s offense is especially loaded after scoring 33.5 points per game (No. 23 in the FCS) and rushing for 265.8 yards per game (No. 3 in the FCS).
Darius Wilson enters his third season as starting quarterback. He was the 2021 CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year, throwing for 1,205 yards (106/177), six touchdowns, and eight interceptions, plus 386 rushing yards and four scores. Wilson made big strides in his passing last fall, finishing 151/239 for 2,252 yards, 16 TDs, and seven interceptions. He added 534 yards on the ground and four TDs.
Wilson engineers a tremendous rushing attack that could be even stronger in 2023. Wilson was the third-leading rusher last year. W&M returns its No. 1 and No. 2 rushers in RBs Bronson Yoder (203 carries, 1,255 yards, 13 TDs) and Malachi Imoh (85 carries, 739 yards, 9 TDs). Yoder was a 2022 First Team All-CAA selection.
Those standout backs run behind an o-line that loses fifth-round NFL Draft pick Colby Sorsdal but returns four players who started all 13 games: Sophomore All-American LT Charles Grant (6’4″ 275 lbs), LG Bart Francois (6’3″ 300 lbs), RG Rian Haigler (6’4″ 305 lbs), and center Ryan McKenna (6’4″ 285 lbs).
W&M loses its top two pass-catchers, but the next three return: DreSean Kendrick (26 catches, 366 yards, 2 TDs), JT Mayo (14 catches, 277 yards, 2 TDs), and Tyler Rose (10 catches, 231 yards, 3 TDs).
The Tribe has playmakers returning on all three levels of the defense. Nine of the top 11 tacklers return from a unit that allowed 22.5 points per game last season, ranking No. 31 in the FCS.
The front is led by All-Americans EDGE players John Pius at OLB and Nate Lynn at defensive end. Pius was named the 2022 CAA Defensive Player of the Year and finished second in Buck Buchanan Award voting after racking up 72 tackles, 19 TFLs, and 11.5 sacks. Lynn is a back-to-back All-American, recording 52 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, and 12 sacks in 2021 and 61 tackles, 13 TFLs, and eight sacks in 2022.
Pius led W&M in tackles while Lynn was fourth. No. 2 tackler Marcus Barnes (66 tackles, 2 INT. at safety) and No. 3 tackler Isaiah Jones (62 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, 2 sacks as a 2nd Team All-CAA selection) return as well. Kevin Jarrell is a two-year starter coming back at LB who had 44 tackles in 2022. Quinn Osborne and Brayden Staib also saw a lot of reps at linebacker with both recording more than 40 tackles apiece last year.
Ryan Poole (1st Team All-CAA) and Jalen Jones (2nd Team All-CAA) form a solid CB duo. Poole recorded 36 tackles, 1 INT, and 10 pass breakups in 2022. Jones had 24 tackles, 4 INT, and eight pass breakups.
William & Mary was a disruptive and opportunistic defense, ranking No. 7 in the FCS with 25 forced turnovers. Its passing defense was solid at 199.2 yards allowed per game (No. 31 in the FCS). But its rush defense gave up 159.7 YPG, which was No. 63 in the subdivision. The Tribe has great talent in its front seven, but defending the run will need to get stronger to compete with the top-tier teams deep in the playoff bracket.
8/31 at Campbell
9/9 vs Wofford
9/16 at Charleston Southern
9/23 vs Maine
9/30 at RV Elon
10/7 at Virginia
10/21 vs Towson
10/28 vs Monmouth
11/4 at UAlbany
11/11 at Hampton
11/18 vs No. 23 Richmond
HERO Sports’ rankings
RV = Received Votes
Bold indicates CAA games