#74 Old Dominion Football 2017 Preview

Old Dominion Monarchs
Overall Rank: #74
#3 Conference USA
Old Dominion has steadily been building their program under the direction of Coach Bobby Wilder. In 2016 they had their breakthrough campaign, which resulted in a ten win season. The Monarchs went 7-1 in Conference USA action and knocked off Eastern Michigan in the Bahamas Bowl. The question now is whether or not the program can continue their upward trajectory.
2016 Record: 10-3, 7-1
2016 Bowl: Bahamas Bowl vs. Eastern Michigan (W 24-20)
Coach: Bobby Wilder (67-30 at Old Dominion, 67-30 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brian Scott
Defensive Coordinator: Rich Nagy
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Ray Lawry, RB, 1,255 yards
Passing: Blake LaRussa, QB, 140 yards
Receiving: Jonathan Duhart, WR, 735 yards
Tackles: Sean Carter, S, 60
Sacks: Oshane Ximines, DE, 7.5
Interceptions: Brandon Addison, CB, 2; Sean Carter, S, 2; Denzel Williams, S, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Jeremy Cox, WR Travis Fulgham, DE Bunmi Rotimi, S Justice Davila, DE Tim Ward
Key Losses: QB David Washington, WR Zach Pascal, OL Troy Butler, CB Aaron Young, LB TJ Ricks, LB Anthony Wilson, DL Rashaad Coward
ODU returns a lot of talent on offense, but they are missing a quarterback. David Washington is gone after an amazing senior season in which he threw for 2,836 yards and 31 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Blake LaRussa is the likely starter after spending his freshman campaign as Washington’s backup, but junior college transfer Jordan Hoy and freshman Steven Williams have the talent to provide some tough competition. The new quarterback will be helped by the return of just about everybody who caught a pass last year except for top receiver Zach Pascal. Jonathan Duhart and Travis Fulgham should again be the top receivers and both of them are big 6-3 targets. The running game will be very strong once more with Ray Lawry running behind a young, but experienced, offensive line. Lawry rushed for 1,255 yards and 11 scores last season. Jeremy Cox added 732 yards and 13 trips to the end zone and will again be a great change of pace back.
Oshane Ximines and Bunmi Rotimi anchor a line that could boast the best pass rush in Conference USA. Ximines tallied 7.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles-for-loss, while Rotimi added 7.0 sacks and 10.0 tackles-for-loss. With players like Tim Ward and plenty of size in the middle of the line, ODU has a ton of talent and depth up front. They also have depth in the secondary with cornerback Brandon Addison and safeties Sean Carter and Rob Thompson returning to their starting roles. There are also high hopes for freshman cornerback Joe Joe Headen. The bigger questions are at linebacker where TJ Ricks and Anthony Wilson have to be replaced. Those two combined for 201 tackles last season. If Marvin Branch and Derek Wilder are ready to step into bigger roles in the middle of the defense, this should be a very productive unit.
The Bottom Line:
There are questions, most notably at quarterback and linebacker, but Old Dominion should have answers. If that is the case, the Monarchs will compete for a conference title. The only conference loss last season came at Western Kentucky. ODU will look for revenge on October 20th at home and that contest could decide the East division. Reaching ten wins again may be a bit of a stretch, especially with non-conference games against North Carolina and Virginia Tech, but that will not stop Old Dominion from seriously competing for a Conference USA title.
Projected Bowl: Bahamas Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 196.8 (45th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 234.0 (64, 6)
Total Offense: 430.8 (50, 5)
Scoring Offense: 35.1 (31, 4)
Rushing Defense: 157.2 (50, 5)
Pass Defense: 226.5 (63, 4)
Total Defense: 383.6 (49, 3)
Scoring Defense: 27.2 (57, 2)
Turnover Margin: 1.00 (4, 1)
Sacks: 2.62 (28, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.46 (27, 2)