WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (William & Mary Athletics) - By the time most college football teams begin spring practice, William & Mary will be done. Tribe coach Mike London moved up the start date to Feb. 10, five weeks earlier than last season.
W&M’s spring game will be this Saturday (Feb. 29th) at noon. Three more days of practice will follow before things wrap up on March 6.
Thirteen days later, 180 miles to the northwest, conference rival James Madison will get started.
London is going with this early plan for continuity’s sake. He doesn’t want the routine to be interrupted by spring break (March 7-15) or the Colonial Relays (April 2-4), which uses the track at Zable Stadium.
And if someone is injured — “knock on wood,” London adds — there will be extra month of recovery time before preseason practice begins in August.
“After we’re done, then the spring break starts,” London said. “After they come back, it’s going to be a steady flow of getting bigger, stronger, faster with our sports performance people.”
The big news so far has been staff changes. Brennan Marion left after one year as W&M’s offensive coordinator and is now the wide receivers coach at Hawaii. He was quickly replaced by Christian Taylor, a former W&M quarterback and assistant coach.
Taylor had been the offensive coordinator at the University of San Diego. Last season, the Toreros were fifth among FCS teams in scoring (38.5 points a game), sixth in total yards (475 a game) and 11th in passing yards (279.7 a game).
London was able to fill the job so soon after Marion’s departure because he already knew Taylor.
“In 2018, when I first got the job, I went to the (AFCA coaches) convention and I met with him,” London said. “Even though I had Brennan and the rest of the guys on the staff, I’m talking to coordinators, position coaches, so if something were to happen on the staff, I’ve already had interaction.
“We talked for a long time about values and philosophical things. You never know when things are going to happen. Brennan had his opportunity, he left, and I knew who I wanted to go after. Him having been here was great, plus he’s got demonstrated performance and winning.”
An obvious question is how the offense will differ from Marion’s “Go-Go” scheme. Last season, the Tribe averaged 25.2 points and 186 rushing yards a game. In 2018, before Marion’s arrival, those numbers were 13.6 and 55.3.
The “Go-Go” used two running backs, often side by side, with a fast-paced tempo. Those factors might change, but London said the new system won’t be a dramatic change.
“It’s got a little bit of the West Coast flavor, but it also has multiple formations,” London said. “We’ll still do the QB read play with Hollis (Mathis). We’ll still do the bubble screens and jet sweeps, all the things to cater to the skill set we have.
“It might not be as up tempo (as the ‘Go-Go’), but there are some elements of it. We can continue to use with the skillset we already have with Hollis, Owen Wright, (Donavyn) Lester, Kane (Everson), (Zach) Burdick, and Jordan Lowery.”
Darryl Blackstock has been elevated from defensive assistant to outside linebackers coach, the position he played in the NFL. Jack Armstrong, a former W&M receiver, has moved from offensive analyst to tight ends coach.
Matt Johns has shifted coaching responsibilities from tight ends last season to quarterbacks. Gordon Sammis will remain the offensive line coach and be the run game coordinator.
SPRING NOTES: Quarterback Ted Hefter, defensive lineman Zyquan Bessant, and long snapper Sam Katz were announced as the program’s HEYFARL winners. Hundreds Each Year For A Rising Letterman provides scholarship money to walk-ons. … London said Bronson Yoder, the Tribe’s third-leading rusher as a freshman last season, will be playing safety in at the player’s request. Yoder is still expected to see some reps on offense, mostly in the wildcat, and return kickoffs. … London expects to have safety Miles Hayes back for a fifth season of eligibility. Hayes missed all but one game of his redshirt freshman season in 2016 with an injury.