For the first time in school history, the Spiders will have ended a season and began a season ranked first in the nation in the FCS. Coming off a season where the Spiders took home the Division I Football National Championship, Richmond looks to continue their success entering the 2009 season.
Second year head coach Mike London is returning 18 of 24 starters with a handful being named to the FCS Preseason All-American team. Back at quarterback is newly elected captain, Eric Ward who led the fourth best scoring offense in the CAA. Ward averaged 175.5 passing yards with a 141.5 passing efficiency. Jordan Mitchell and Kevin Grayson return at wide out and bring with them 86 combined receptions from last season. They both found the end zone three times last season and combined for over 1,000 yards receiving. Grayson has led the Spiders in receiving his first two seasons at Richmond. Look for red shirt sophomore, Tre Gray, to make a huge impact as he played in all 16 games last year and was tied for the team lead in touchdown catches as a rookie.
As of now red shirt senior, Justin Forte is listed at the starting running back for the Spiders. He had solid production in the first four games last season, before suffering a season-ending broken leg injury. Sophomore Garrett Wilkins also might see some time at running back. He is a true athlete who can run as well as catch out of the back field and posses as a dual threat for the Spiders.
The offensive line returns four starters in Jared Decker, Drew Lachenmayer, matt McCracken and Michael Silva. They all bring a lot of experience and as a unit are regarded as one of the most deep and talented lines in the FCS. As long as the Spiders can find a fifth addition to the already dominant line.
As a unit, the defense will be returning nine starters. They ranked No.1 in the CAA in total defense, allowing only 268.8 yards per game and were in the top five in rushing and passing defense. The position where the defense might lack the inexperience is on the line. Parker Miles and Martin Parker return with over 40 solo tackles and six sacks combined. Eric McBride returns as a third year starter at Linebacker where he has led the Spiders in tackles his first two seasons. Patrick Weldon joins McBride who finished second on the team behind McBride in total tackles and two sacks.
The secondary might be the most experienced bunch returning Derek Hatcher, David Horton, Michael Ireland, and Justin Rogers. Rogers is coming off a season where he led the Spiders with seven interceptions, which helped the defense set a single-season team record for 29 interceptions. In addition to the interceptions, Rogers also returned two of those picks for touchdowns and a fumble for a score.
The Spiders have all the tools in place to make a run at defending their title. They are stacked with talent, depth and plenty of experience that should bowed well for them during the 2009 campaign.
’09 Prediction: 9-2