In the 100 days leading up to the kickoff of the college football season on Saturday, Aug. 25, HERO Sports is ranking the top 100 teams in the FBS. Each day, starting May 17 and ending Aug. 24, a new team is revealed in the HERO Sports Top 100.
No. 91 Old Dominion
As quickly as Old Dominion rose jumped into the national conversation with a 10-win 2016 season, they just as quickly fell out of it with a five-win 2017.
Now, the Monarchs pick up the pieces by trying to find consistent quarterback play, continuing to apply balanced pressure from the defense and, most importantly, get healthy. They have 22 seniors on the roster, the most in the program's 10 seasons since returning to action in 2009.
Of all the Top 100 slots, Old Dominion at No. 91 is the most conservative by far.
2017 Record: 5-7 (3-5, Conference USA)
Old Dominion labored through a six-game midseason losing streak during which they scored three points or fewer twice and gave up 35 points or more in all six games. It was ugly but they played some darn good offenses, including Florida Atlantic and Western Kentucky, and one good Power Five team (Virginia Tech).
The passing game (and other parts of the offense, partly due to injuries) was non-existent for large chunks of games and though they committed the fifth-fewest penalties in the country, small mental errors on both sides were constant and crippling.
Head Coach: Bobby Wilder (10th Year, 72-37)
Bobby Wilder was rewarded for their 10-win 2016 season with a new contract that included a six-figure pay bump. Now, that success is hurting him, at least in terms of expectations and outside pressure. While, from all indications, he's nowhere near the hot seat, last year's five-win dud put a little heat on the 53-year-old longtime coach.
Don't let the heat distract you from the magnificent job he's done in rebuilding the football program from scratch and making the Monarchs immediately competitive.
RB Ray Lawry, G Darius Garcia, DE Bunmi Rotimi, CB Brandon Addison
Ray Lawry is finally gone after a sensational career that included 4,500 total yards and 48 touchdowns. The program's all-time leading rusher signed with the Bengals after the draft.
Bunmi Rotimi and his 19 career sacks are gone, as is Brandon Addison, an all-conference honorable mention corner who had 24 passes defended the last three years.
Returning Offensive Players
QB Steven Williams, WR Isaiah Harper, WR Jonathan Duhart, OT Chad Hendricks, OT Isaac Weaver, G Tony Barnett, C Nick Clarke
Steven Williams' story got lost in a rough season. After Blake LaRussa and Jordan Hoy struggled early, Williams started seven games as a 17-year-old true freshman. He became the second-youngest player to ever start an FBS game at quarterback.
At times he was elusive and made throws down the field that a 17-year-old has no business making. Other times he was lost, panicked in protected pockets and didn't work through his progressions. Williams completed 56 percent of passes for 1,528 yards (5.8 yards per attempt), six touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He added a couple hundred yards on the ground and three touchdowns.
"This is a big opportunity for him to address some fundamental areas that he and [quarterbacks coach Ron Whitcomb] have talked about,” Wilder said of Williams at the start of spring practice. “He’s put on size, and put on strength. You can see the development physically.”
Not only was quarterback play miserable early in the season, Old Dominion also lost senior receiver Jonathan Duhart to a broken foot in Week 2. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Duhart got a medical redshirt and, along with 2017 leading receiver Isaiah Harper, will be a nice target for Williams. Harper (below) also averaged 29.1 yards per kick return.
The right side of the line needs to get better (but mostly healthier). Isaac Weaver (the doppelganger of Silicon Valley actor T.J. Miller) and Tony Barnett anchor the left side and Nick Clarke is back at center. Right tackle Chad Hendricks is still recovering from a knee injury.
Jeremy Cox, who had 621 rushing yards before suffering a season-ending collarbone injury vs. Charlotte, should be their lead back. He sat out the spring but will be ready for fall camp.
Returning Defensive Players
DE Oshane Ximines, DT Miles Fox, DT Pat Toal Jr. LB Marvin Branch Jr., LB Jordan Young, CB Joe Joe Headen, S Justice Davila, S Sean Carter
Old Dominion returns key players at each position and though injuries made it tough season they created a lot of depth with underclassmen.
Six different players had a sack last year and three had at least five, led by Oshane Ximines' program-record 8.5 sacks (and a team-high 14 tackles for loss). The 6-foot-3, 247-pound senior enters the season 21 sacks and 33 tackles for loss in his career.
“He practices at such a high level,” Wilder said year. “He just challenges the offensive linemen in practice, so it raises the level of everybody’s performance.”
Miles Fox and Pat Toal Jr. anchor a strong interior line that allows last year's leading tackler Marvin Branch Jr. and rising star Jordan Young to clean up whatever mess is left behind.
Safety Justice Davila was supposed to be gone but his presence will be enormous for a team that must improve against the pass and limit big gains on the ground. The fifth-year senior has battled injuries throughout his career and missed all of last season. He and Sean Carter, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior, will patrol the secondary.
“I’m not mad at it,” Davila said about missing last year. “I had more time to re-evaluate myself.”
“His knowledge of our schemes and everything has been one of his biggest assets,” safeties coach Kermit Buggs said. “That year off has helped him even more, football-wise, understanding all 11 positions.”
RB Casey Perkins, WR Amari Colbert, OT Jack Miller, G Cameron Miller
Redshirt freshmen Jack Miller and Cameron Miller are getting a chance to, at the very least, earn snaps on the right side of the line.
Even with a lot of capable runners, don't be surprised if redshirt freshman Casey Perkins gets 100 carries this season. He sat out last year while recovering from a knee injury suffered in high school.
Amari Colbert impressed last fall but ended up redshirting.
Old Dominion is getting a ton of money to play at Liberty in Week 1 for the Flames' first-ever game as an FBS program. The Monarchs don't have a bye until November but don't play a road game from Oct. 20 until Nov. 24.
|Saturday, Sept. 1||at Liberty|
|Saturday, Sept. 8||vs. FIU|
|Saturday, Sept. 15||at Charlotte|
|Saturday, Sept. 22||vs. Virginia Tech|
|Saturday, Sept. 29||at East Carolina|
|Saturday, Oct. 6||at FAU|
|Saturday, Oct. 13||vs. Marshall|
|Saturday, Oct. 20||at Western Kentucky|
|Saturday, Oct. 27||vs. Middle Tennessee|
|Saturday, Nov. 10||vs. North Texas|
|Saturday, Nov. 17||vs. VMI|
|Saturday, Nov. 24||at Rice|