Photo courtesy of Old Dominion athletics
Finally, finally, Old Dominion had its first spring football sessions under new coach Ricky Rahne. In the process, we learned a few things about the Monarchs’ new era.
The Monarchs will be running an up-tempo, fast offense. Multiple times during their spring scrimmage, as well as in their various practices, the Monarchs ran no-huddle. Most often, that was with either D.J. Mack or Stone Smartt at quarterback. This should be fun to watch. Rahne wants to hit 15.6% explosive plays. That is defined as 15 yards on a pass play or 10 yards on a run.
Tight Ends: An Extra Receiver In New Offense
Over the course of the spring, Rahne told us how important tight ends would be in the new system.
“I like them all; they all have different strengths,” Rahne said at the spring scrimmage. “I’ve been really pleased with what Coach (Fontel) Mines has done with the tight ends this spring. I think (Mines) has been an unbelievable addition and those tight ends have gotten a lot better. I’m happy with what they did today and that’s just a sampling of what we will do with them, but it was good to see them catch the ball and make some plays.”
High Expectations for Offensive Line
A fairly young group, the offensive line room has a lot of talent. Isaac Weaver, Nick Saldiveri, and Khadere Kounta bring back experience. Tyran Hunt brings his experience after transferring from Maryland. Couple that with guys who haven’t played yet like Santana Saunders, Talyn Hunter, and Stephon Dubose and there are quite a few possible combinations up front.
“My expectations are really high,” offensive line coach Kevin Reihner said. “These guys are talented but even more than that, they are hungry to work, they study film, and they train like crazy in the weight room. They call themselves the wide backs, they feel like they walk sideways through doors and I love that mindset. They are really starting to play with that mentality too and it’s showing up on tape, they’ve done everything I’ve asked since I’ve shown up here. Obviously, there are little things to work on, consistency and communication, but boy, are they fun to coach.”
No Solid First String OL..Yet
While Reihner did not name a solid first string yet, there could be some assumptions based on what we’ve seen from spring practice, and what is returning to ODU.
A projected lineup could be Weaver, Saldiveri, Kounta, Saunders, and Hunt. Again, nothing is set in stone.
“We come in and compete every day,” Reihner said during spring. “Some guys have earned some reps and there are some guys that I know are going to play but I don’t know exactly where yet. We are just going to put out the best five and if that’s different from week two to week one; it’s one of the nice things about having 12 guys and them being cross-trained. I know that wherever I put them in, I know how hard they are going to play and how much effort they are going to give at studying.”
First Spring Finally Under Rahne’s Cap
Rahne and company waited a long time to have their first spring practice as COVID-19 forced last year’s session to not happen. Now, a year later, the Monarchs have finally returned.
Many players made improvements: freshmen like Lamareon James, Levi Wentz, Isiah Paige. Guys who have been there for some time like Javon Harvey, Blake Watson, and Stone Smartt made advancements. Transfers Trey Blount, Tyran Hunt, and D.J. Mack showcased what they are bringing to the Monarchs and there is reason to be optimistic. Those in Norfolk however, should temper that a little bit.
While 2021 will be a work in progress, it will be a return and a new era in Monarch football.
Five Others to Watch
Of all the guys on this team, there are a few for fans to watch closely. Obviously, Mack, Geronda Hall, James, and Lala Davis deserve watching but let’s dive deeper.
- Freshman WR Rafael McCoy:
McCoy brings a ton of speed to the team. Coming out of Wilkes-Barre, Penn., McCoy is a state track champion in both the 100 and 200 meters. McCoy was a guy who really saw his stock rise at the spring scrimmage.
- Freshman QB Reese Poffenbarger
We touched on Poffenbarger when doing takeaways from Saturday’s scrimmage, but it needs to be said again. Poffenbarger probably won’t start, but he sure did look like a guy who took the reigns of the fourth quarterback spot and could challenge to be the third-string guy this summer and fall. Poffenbarger is not currently on scholarship and is a preferred walk-on.
- Freshman DT Alonzo Ford Jr.
Ford was a very highly-touted recruit from Varina High School (Richmond) and has been a guy to watch since he got into the program. Ford has a very bright future. ODU currently only has six players listed at defensive tackle on the roster currently, so Ford could see some time early. Even if more come, Ford has a huge head start on them.
- Redshirt Freshman WR Javon Harvey
Harvey has played on special teams, but has been used a lot more at receiver this spring, even getting some rotation with the starters during the spring scrimmage. Harvey could be poised for a breakout season in the Monarchs’ new offense.
- Redshirt Sophomore TE Isaiah Spencer
All the tight ends will benefit from the new emphasis on the passing game, but the one that could benefit the most is Spencer. A big body at 6-foot-5, Spencer could be a huge asset in the red zone this fall.