Preview 2017: Old Dominion Monarchs
Previewing and looking ahead at the Old Dominion season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Old Dominion Offense
The Monarch offense was among the most efficient and effective in the nation, with QB David Washington breaking out and dominating in several ways, but now he’s gone.
Blake LaRussa is the odds-on favorite to take over – especially after a good spring – but there’s still plenty of fight for the job with a slew of young players jockeying for position. Fortunately, there’s close to 2,000 rushing yards returning from Ray Lawry and Jeremy Cox to take the pressure off – they’ll be the ones who handle the offense.
Star WR Zach Paschal is gone, but but the next nine top wideouts/tight ends are back, led by Jonathan Duhart and Travis Fulgham – two 6-3 targets good enough to step up make the new QB’s life better.
The best part of the puzzle might be the line that started four underclassmen last season and tuned out fine. The group gave up 19 sacks and paved the way for over five yards per carry.
Biggest Key To The Old Dominion Offense
Run for 170 yards, and everything, apparently, will be fine. The offense needs to be better on third downs, and the quarterback situation has to be solid, but if last year was any indication, when the running game rocked, the Monarchs won.
ODU went 10-0 when running for 170 yards or more, and was 0-3 when going under, running for 157 yards against Appalachian State, 117 against NC State, and 67 against Western Kentucky. All three games were blowout losses, but that’s partly because the offense never got control. Those are the only three games, by the way, the team averaged under four yards per carry.
What You Need To Know About The Old Dominion Defense
Terrific against everyone but the dominant offenses, the Monarchs return seven starters, but three of the top four tacklers are gone, starting with the linebackers.
TJ Ricks is gone from the middle, and Anthony Wilson if finished on the outside after combining for 201 tackles. There’s decent talent returning, though, with Marvin Branch looking ready to step up at one outside linebacker spot, while Derek Wilder is a big 243-body in the middle.
Three starters are back up front, including Oshane Ximines and Bunmi Rotimi – the team’s top two pass rushers. There’s bulk inside, but top nose tackle Rashaad Coward is gone.
Three starters return to the secondary, too, with both starting safeties back along with Brandon Addison at one corner. However, top interceptor – Aaron Young – is back after picking off three passes.
Biggest Key To The Old Dominion Defense
The pass defense has to lockdown on the sharper passing teams. The Monarchs managed to miss most teams that could throw a decent forward pass, but they still did a nice job in the secondary, allowing just four teams to connect on 60% of their passes or more. Three of those teams – Appalachian State, NC State and WKU – were the three that beat ODU. Marshall was the only team that was accurate with the passing game, but lost. The difference? The Herd dinked and dunked – the other three were able to bomb away.
Old Dominion Will Be Far Better If …
The offense is a bit sharper on third downs. Even with an efficient quarterback in Washington, the offense stalled way too often, converting just 37% of its third down chances.
The offense was still occasionally able to get by when things weren’t working, beating UTEP, Southern Miss and Marshall combining to connect on 9-of-34 tries. But the Monarchs will need to be up around 40% overall to repeat the success of last year.
Best Old Dominion Offensive Player
RB Ray Lawry, Sr. – The 5-10, 204-pound veteran led the team with 1,255 yards and 11 scores, averaging over six yards per carry – with 11 grabs for 134 yards and a score. And he missed a game. He was a bit feast-or-famine, running for 100 yards or more in five of the last six games, but was held to 14 yards by NC State and 27 by WKU.
Now, with 3,338 career yards and 38 touchdowns – 40 total – he’s one of the nation’s most productive backs with the build to be a workhorse, and the quickness to bounce outside when he’s not powering through the tackles. He could be used more in the passing game, but he’s a complete back.
2. WR Jonathan Duhart, Sr.
3. RB Jeremy Cox, Jr.
4. QB Blake LaRussa, Soph.
5. OT Chad Hendricks, Jr.
Best Old Dominion Defensive Player
DE Oshane Ximines, Jr. – Part linebacker, part defensive end, the 6-3, 239-pounder worked on the line over the last two seasons, growing into one of the best pass rushers in Conference USA.
Very smart, very quick, and very productive on a consistent basis, he came out strong with a five-sack freshman season, and followed it up with a 42-tackle, 7.5 sack, 11.5 tackle-for-loss all-star run. One of the big differences was what he did when getting to the man, coming up with three forced fumbles.
2. CB Brandon Addison, Sr.
3. S Sean Carter, Jr.
4. DE Bunmi Rotimi, Sr.
5. DT Miles Fox, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Blake LaRussa, Soph. – While he’s not all that big at 5-10 and 185 pounds, he’s a pure passer with good downfield touch. Able to move ahead from the pack this spring, he’s just mobile enough to get by, but now he has to try to be the one who replaces David Washington, who threw 31 touchdown passes and just five picks.
The fight for the starting job is still on, but the Monarchs need a quarterback who can be close to as efficient as Washington. It’s asking a lot.
The Old Dominion Season Will Be A Success If …
The Monarchs win the East. They did it last year, but they lost to WKU and didn’t go to the title game. Considering there’s no Louisiana Tech or Navy on the slate, and WKU is at home, there’s no reason for complaints. The Hilltoppers and Middle Tennessee are the only two teams on the conference slate that finished with a winning record.
Key Game To The Old Dominion Season
Oct. 20 vs. WKU – It’s the big date against the league’s big star, and it’s a home date on a Friday night. Is Old Dominion going to be that much better after losing 59-24 to the Hilltoppers last year? If they want to get to the Conference USA title game, they’d better be. It’s not a stretch to call this the most important game since the program moved up to the FBS level four years ago.
2016 Old Dominion Fun Stats
– Fumbles: Opponents 25 (lost 12) – Old Dominion 10 (lost 4)
– Sacks: Old Dominion 34 for 242 yards – Opponents 19 for 114 yards
– Punt Return Average: Opponents 16.6 yards – Old Dominion 9.3 yards