Even though William and Mary's likely starting quarterback hasn't taken a snap this spring, the focus of the men charged with protecting him when the 2011 season starts remains the same.
"It's whoever's back there," offensive line coach Bob Solderitch said. "We've got to do our job."
The Tribe's offensive line returns four players with starting experience, led by rising senior center James Pagliaro, a third-team all-Colonial Athletic Association who started all 12 games as William and Mary went 8-4 last season and won its first CAA title since 2004.
The goal of the guys in the trenches going into 2011 is simple: "We want people to fear us," said Pagliaro, named a team captain after Saturday's spring game. "We need to continue getting meaner and moving guys."
Four quarterbacks ran the Tribe's offense on Saturday, but Michael Paulus, a rising senior who threw for 883 yards and four touchdowns in six games last year, is sitting out spring practice after offseason shoulder surgery.
"We want to protect whoever's back there," Pagliaro said. "Don't let anyone touch the quarterback."
Pagliaro and his linemates cleared the way for three tailbacks to rush for 141 yards on 40 carries. The pass protection was somewhat shakier, with the biggest play coming on a 54-yard touchdown pass from backup Raphael Ortiz, scrambling away from pressure, who hit junior wide receiver Joey Brady for a one-handed catch in the back of the end zone.
"Our run-blocking was better," Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock said. "We still are not where we need to be protection-wise."
Tailback Jonathan Grimes, who will bring a school-record 5,445 all-purpose yards into his senior season, has seen scant work in the spring but will be the Tribe's go-to guy in 2011.
"These guys on this offensive line really know what they need to do," Pagliaro said. "We need to get after it, get our running game going, and protect the quarterback. If we could run it every play, we would."
On Saturday, redshirt freshman and former Woodside star Jarrell Cooper had 66 yards on 13 carries, while Tabb product Meltoya Jones, a junior, had a touchdown as part of his 20 yards on 10 carries. Redshirt freshman Darnell Lewis had 17 carries for 55 yards and a 3-yard TD.
Tribe QBs combined to go 17-for-37 for 173 yards with two touchdowns.
"The bottom line is, we've got to get more consistent, finish blocks," said Mike Salazar, a rising junior shifting from right tackle, where he started 12 games in 2010, to left tackle, where he'll be charged with protecting the QB's blind side. "Overall this spring, we've improved. Our technique's gotten better, our pads are lower."
Solderitch credits that improvement to a work ethic that has prompted linemen to seek extra work on their own. He's been especially impressed with the progress made by right tackle Robert Gumbita, who appeared in five games as a sophomore in 2010, and right guard Trevor Springman, who played in eight games as a redshirt freshman.
"I think they just recognize that they have a job to do, and it's important," Solderitch said. "We've got four guys with starting experience, and that helps. We still don't have a lot of depth, (but) they all work pretty hard together and communicate."
Laycock said there will be a quarterback competition going into fall practice. "The job's not going to be handed to Mike in preseason," Laycock said. … Junior defensive lineman Nick Zaremba had two of the Tribe's six sacks. … The Tribe's 18th annual Colonial All-Pro Football Camp, to be held June 26-29, will feature Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and New England wide receiver Wes Welker as guest instructors. The camp is for boys ages 8 through rising high school seniors, and registration is online at tribeathletics.com.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun