Despite losing two NFL draft choices on defense, William and Mary expected to contend in CAA

WILLIAMSBURG — Jimmye Laycock is tan, rested and ready as he enters his 31st season as William and Mary's football coach. For this Tribe faithful can thank Grail Johnson.

Grail is Laycock's first grandchild. She was born this spring to Laycock's daughter, Melanie, and when Melanie suggested a family getaway to the Outer Banks, the workaholic coach discovered his inner grandpa.

"It's the first time in five years I've actually taken a week (of vacation)," Laycock said of his July escape.


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Not coincidentally, this is the first time in five years that William and Mary is coming off a playoff season. And make no mistake, grandbaby or not, Laycock would not have vanished for a week — he didn't even take his golf clubs! — were he not pleased with the state of his program.

"We've got significant things to improve on and solve with this team," Laycock said Monday prior to the team's first preseason practice. "But I don't ever want to sell a team short or overhype a team. The good thing is, these guys understand the work ethic, and they've been there."

Last season, the Tribe reached the national semifinals for the second time under Laycock. Ten starters, including NFL draft choices Adrian Tracy and Sean Lissemore from the defense, are gone, but quality abounds on both sides of the ball.

So established are the likes of running back Jonathan Grimes and linebacker Jake Trantin that most peg William and Mary as the chief threat to unseat reigning national champion Villanova in the Colonial Athletic Association.

"At first you're flattered by that kind of thing," Laycock said. "Then you sit back and say, 'Wait a minute. We've got two guys who got drafted off our defense and another kid signed as a free agent [safety David Caldwell] who was a good player. And then, we don't have a quarterback who's ever played. Now, either someone thinks I'm an unreal coach, or someone knows something I don't know."

Laycock does know this: Only in 1989 and '90 has William and Mary made the playoffs in consecutive years, and never has the Tribe advanced in back-to-back seasons.

Granted, there are extenuating circumstances. Electing to play a 1992 postseason exhibition in Japan probably cost William and Mary a playoff invite, and in 2008, the selection committee jilted the Tribe for Maine.

But facts are facts, though Laycock has not enlightened his players.

"He's not mentioned that to us and I personally did not know that," senior receiver Chase Hill said of the sole consecutive playoff seasons. "Of course we're filled with history here so I was bound to hear that sometime."

Hill and his teammates came oh-so-close to history last year, falling at Villanova 14-13 in a frigid December playoff contest. The Tribe's 11 victories matched the school record, and the defense ranked second nationally in yards and points allowed.

"We have unfinished business," defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said. "We recognize that. … The 2009 season was really nice, but we didn't win a conference championship and we didn't win a national championship, and every player is very, very aware of that."

Last season was so nice that Grandpa Jimmye headed to the OBX.

"I really enjoyed it," he said, looking far better than a 62-year-old has a right to. "We just hung out, went to the beach, went swimming, walked, cooked out. It was just fun to get away. … I can see why people do that stuff. Of course, you could get addicted to it."

Indeed, the sun and surf are almost as addictive as winning.

David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime. Sign up for text alerts by texting "BIGSPORTS" to 71593.

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