Monday, June 26, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Old Dominion Monarchs

Old Dominion Monarchs
Old Dominion had their best season to date in FBS football last fall when they finished 10-3, and beat Eastern Michigan in the Bahamas Bowl. Bobby Wilder has built a solid program, and the future looks bright indeed for the Monarchs, but there are changes coming up this season, and the time is now to prove just how deep this team can be.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
The Monarchs will return one of the most potent one-two punches in the run game in the nation this fall when Ray Lawry and Jeremy Cox both return. Either could be a starter anywhere, and they combined for 1987 yards last season with 24 TDs. ODU averaged over 196 yards per game last fall on the ground, and there is no reason to doubt that they would repeat that mark this fall.
Jonathon Duhart returns this fall, and will step into the top receiver spot on the roster. He caught 48 passes for 735 yards last season, and averaged 15.31 yards per reception. He scored nine times, tying for the team lead in receiving TDs. Travis Fulgham, who was the third receiver a year ago, steps up one spot, and caught 29 passes last season, while scoring eight times. Almost every single reserve from last fall will return, giving the Monarchs one of the deepest receiving corps in CUSA football.
The offensive line is loaded as well, as four starters return. LT Chad Hendricks, LG Tony Barnett, C Nick Clarke, and RT Devin Hannan all return, and nine linemen from the depth chart in the bowl game all return with them as reserves. Manny Matiarena, a Pasadena City College transfer, may shift from left to right for a crack at the RG job.
Brad Davis returns as a sophomore after a solid debut season where he hit 10/12 FG attempts.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Replacing David Washington at QB will be a major task this fall. He passed for 31 TDs and just five INTs last season, and took all of that production off of the grid. The most likely starting candidate would be Blake LaRussa, who played in 10 games last fall as a freshman.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The line should be solid this fall for ODU, as three starters return. Bunmi Rotimi is back at DE< while Oshane Ximines returns at the hybrid BUCK position. They combined for 21.5 TFLs last fall, and should be one of the better edge combos in the conference in 2017. Miles Fox also returns at DT, He finished with 27 tackles and 4.5 TFLs. Pat Toal and Mufu Taiwo will battle it out at NT in fall camp.
Three starters are back in the secondary as well. Brandon Addison is back at CB, while the Safeties return intact with Justice Davila (FS) and Sean Carter (SS) both in the fold. Addison finished with 10 PBUs last season and picked off two passes. Davila broke up seven passes, and racked up 47 tackles, while Carter totaled 60 tackles. Sophomore Jelani Carter could have first shot at starting in the open CB spot replacing Aaron Young, who has moved on.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
There is a gaping void in the middle of the defense, as OLB Anthony Wilson and MLB TJ Ricks have both moved on. They combined for 201 tackles last season, and an additional 15.5 TFLs. Zach Latman and Demetrius Stitman, a pair of RS freshmen, are in line to replace Ricks, while a quartet of sophomores could be battling it out in fall camp at the open OLB spot.
The Punting game could use some help as well. Bailey Cate averaged just 37.84 yards per punt last season, and that will need some fixing with a new group of LBs getting plastered together.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Albany, 9/9 U Mass, 9/16 North Carolina, 9/23 at Virginia Tech, 10/7 FAU, 10/14 at Marshall, 10/20 Western Kentucky, 10/28 at North Texas, 11/4 Charlotte, 11/11 at FIU, 11/18 Rice, 11/25 at Middle Tennessee
Final Overview
This could be another solid season for the Monarchs, and a trip to their second consecutive (and ever) bowl game could be in store. ODU defeated Eastern Michigan in the Bahamas last fall, but should shoot for a better locale this season. Eight wins are definite for this club, but with a couple of steals, getting back to 10 wins may yet be in the cards. An early home date with North Carolina is a huge shot to prove that this program is ready to run with the big boys after an easy two win setup to start the season.

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