BALTIMORE --—The biggest question mark surrounding William and Mary's football team going into this season swirls around its marquee position: Who will be the Tribe's quarterback?
North Carolina transfer Mike Paulus is generally regarded as the frontrunner to replace senior R.J. Archer, but you couldn't tell it from William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock's poker face at Wednesday's CAA media day in Baltimore.
"We'll start with four of them in preseason and go from there," said Laycock, meaning little-used senior Mike Callahan and little-used junior D.J. Mangas (both of whom battled knee injuries last season), redshirt freshman Brent Caprio and Paulus. "It'll be Callahan, Mangus, Caprio and Paulus, and then basically, I've told them, I'll make a decision when I feel like we need to make a decision. I'll make a decision so we can get somebody more reps. That's the issue I've got.
"We're going to make sure they prepare like crazy over the summer. We need to get their level of quarterback play up. That's what we've got to do."
Laycock said he didn't see all he needed to see from Paulus in spring practice.
"Part of it was he was learning the offense, learning the stuff," Laycock said. "He'd get something called, and he thinks this, and (the offense) does that, and all of a sudden, he's not able to use his ability. One of his goals was to be able to learn it better and understand it better so he can use his ability better."
Villanova coach Andy Talley assumes he'll see Paulus behind center when the Wildcats, picked to finish first in the CAA ahead of William and Mary, travel to Williamsburg on Oct. 2.
"I assume it's Paulus, but I don't know," he said. "I don't really know their quarterback situation. I've heard it's him."
The Tribe players aren't much more help.
"I really don't know," junior running back Jonathan Grimes said. "I honestly don't know. I think it's just a lot of competition. It's kind of weird, because usually we go into the season knowing who our quarterback is, pretty much. I really think it's a competition."
Junior linebacker Jake Trantin, who led the Tribe with 90 tackles last year, doesn't expect the uncertainty at QB to make his job any harder.
"We know that they're going to get it together on offense, especially with every running back coming back," Trantin said. "We've got talent at quarterback, we've got a good line, we've got young receivers. We'll obviously have to play our game like we did last year and try to improve in every way we can, but no, I wouldn't say it's any added pressure this year."
Don't be so sure, signal-caller-to-be-named-later.
"When you know the other player is playing with a first-year player or a new starter, you know it's not going to be the same as playing against a four-year starter," Richmond senior defensive lineman Martin Parker said. "They just don't have the experience. They can feel a certain pressure, so as a defensive lineman, you're trying to get into that backfield every play, to disrupt them and get them to start thinking about that pressure that's coming and not be able to sit there and just throw the ball wherever they want to.
"So, if you're game planning that Sunday and you hear that it's going to be a first-year starting quarterback, you kind of get a little happy. You just know you've got to get there and get that pressure on him."
New Hampshire defensive lineman Willie McGinnis is more succinct: "It's always a fresh meat type thing, a new animal out there for us to get. It's always fun coming after newbies."