Two of William and Mary football's primary position concerns will influence the role that the third area will play.
Heading into summer training camp, the Tribe's question mark areas were — in no particular order — quarterback, wide receiver and punter.
As the team winds down camp and points toward preparation for the season opener at Virginia, there's progress among the pitch-and-catch guys. But punting, head coach Jimmye Laycock said without a trace of amusement, "is up in the air."
"I'm not really sure who'll do the punting for us right now," Laycock said Tuesday. "At times it's good, at times it's inconsistent."
Three players are battling to replace All-CAA punter David Miller, whose ability and consistency provided a security blanket for the past three seasons.
Junior Tyler Bailey, redshirt freshman John Carpenter and Drake Kuhn, the redshirt sophomore placekicker, remain in the punting mix.
Bailey is the only one of the three who has punted in a game. He kicked in two games last season, versus Villanova and Rhode Island, when Miller was injured. Kuhn, who attended Lafayette High, kicked and punted in high school, and found his groove in the second half of last season as a placekicker. Carpenter was an all-state kicker and punter in high school from western Maryland.
Laycock doesn't ask for distance as much as consistency and poise from his punter. Of course, the remedy for punter anxiety is prolific offense. Touchdowns, field goals, fourth-down proficiency.
Jonathan Grimes and the Tribe running game should be up to the task. The other part of the equation is the passing game.
Presumptive starting quarterback Mike Paulus is coming back from shoulder surgery that all but shelved him last spring and through much of the summer.
The receiving corps is untested, particularly in light of the injury to all-conference wideout Ryan Moody, who is expected to miss a significant chunk, if not all, of 2011.
"Everybody is finally coming together a little bit," senior receiver Ryan Woolfolk said. "We still have some timing issues to work on, which I think is normal. But I feel like everyone is working really hard."
Fellow senior D.J. Mangas has emerged as the leader of the group, someone capable of playing any of the receiver positions, as well as tutoring the underclassmen, such as emerging redshirt freshman Sean Ballard.
"It's been different for me and D.J. Mangas and some of the older guys," Woolfolk said, "because normally we've been behind people that are helping us out. For us, it's been helpful to help out those younger guys. We always have to know exactly what to do so we can help them."
There's been a developing comfort level between the receivers and Paulus, who transferred to W&M from North Carolina for the 2010 spring semester and played periodically last season.
"They might have held him back a little early," Woolfolk said, "but the last week or so, he's let some balls go and we're seeing that cannon that he has. I think it's more that he's getting the green light, that he can go all out.
"The throws are there and he's become a leader. He was kind of new last year, so we didn't know too much about him. But he's definitely stepped up and he's organized, watches film, and he's someone that we trust."
Paulus said he experienced some apprehension about cutting loose the first few days of training camp, but that melted away as time passed.
"I've been surprised at how well my arm has held up, to be honest," he said. "It's been a lot better than I expected. I think it's been a lot better than guys on the team and receivers expected, too, because during the summer I wasn't full-go with these guys. I was (throwing) every other day and it was just the short routes. But I came out here, and for whatever reason, it was good."
Paulus' devotion to film study and familiarizing himself with the Tribe offense while he was recovering paid dividends.
"I have (progressed) in reading coverages and making decisions," Paulus said, "but there's still stuff I need to work on that a 10-month layoff will do to you, as far as game situations, down-and-distance, making sure we're getting in and out of the right formations.
"Mentally, I feel better. I have a lot more work to do, but I definitely feel better than I did last year."
Laycock has been encouraged by what he's seen from all facets of the passing game.
"Mike's arm looks to be pretty good, pretty well recovered," he said. "He's done well, but he certainly has shown some rust from the fact that he hasn't played for a while. When he's on, he's really good. At other times, he's made some mistakes."
Laycock pointed out that consistency and continuity suffer at times during summer camp because of the mixing and matching of quarterbacks and receiver groups. Once game plans come into play and player rotations become fixed, he believes that there will be an uptick in the passing game.
"I feel like we're starting to kind of peak and sharpen at the right time," Paulus said. "The first two weeks were more about chemistry and getting to know one another, because I hadn't been there and those guys weren't starters. We needed to gel, we needed to get some practices under our belts. We needed to mess up and then correct it, so to speak, and we're starting to put some good practices together."