With 15 returning starters from last season's team that finished the year ranked 20th in the country, the William & Mary football team has garnered a preseason top-20 national ranking by six publications.
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Athlon Sports gave the Tribe its highest ranking at 11th, while the Sporting News and Phil Steele's magazine both list W&M as the 12th-best team in the nation entering the '09 season. Any Given Saturday and USA Today College Football Sports Weekly rank the College 13th and 14th, respectively, while Lindy's magazine has the Tribe slotted 16th.
A number of CAA teams joined the Tribe in the national rankings, as no fewer than six programs were ranked in each of the polls. Additionally, the conference had eight teams listed in the top 20 by Any Given Saturday.
In addition to returning 15 starters, W&M brings back six all-conference selections from last fall. Highlighting the impressive list of returnees is senior All-American defensive end Adrian Tracy. A preseason Buchanan Award watch list honoree, Tracy was recently selected as the CAA Preseason Co-Defensive Player of the Year. The Sterling, Va., native has also garnered a number of preseason All-America accolades and enters the fall ranked second nationally among all active players with 19.0 career sacks.
Led by first-year starting quarterback R.J. Archer, the offensive side boasts a number of talented players who posted impressive seasons in 2008. Sophomore running back Jonathan Grimes earned CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year distinction after leading the conference and ranking 12th nationally with 162 all-purpose yards per game. Senior tight end and senior wide receiver D.J. McAulay also earned all-league honors last fall and will both be instrumental in a Tribe offensive attack that averaged nearly 33 points per game last season.
W&M's special teams unit enters 2009 as one of the best in the nation, as it returns a pair of preseason all-conference standouts in senior place-kicker Brian Pate and junior punter David Miller. A Sports Network preseason All-American, Pate established himself as a premier place-kicker last fall by connecting on 13-of-16 field goal attempts and all 41 of his extra-point opportunities. In addition to a strong kicking game, the Tribe also returns one of the country’s top kickoff returners in Grimes, who averaged a league-best 24.5 yards per return as a freshman en route to earning All-America honors from the Sports Network.
The Tribe will open its fall camp on Aug. 10 in preparation for its season opener at Virginia on Sept. 5.