Evaluating the Class of 2017, Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder likes the talent, character, and balance. He also would prefer that none of his true freshmen play a down in the fall.
Going into its ninth season, it’s third at the Bowl Subdivision level, the Monarchs no longer have to count on 18-year-olds to play significant minutes. Wilder redshirted 30 of 31 true freshmen (including walk-ons) last season, and that’s the plan again this year.
“If we can redshirt as many as we did this year, that’s the initial goal for most of them,” Wilder said Wednesday at his signing day presser. “That’s where we’re headed as a program, that we don’t have to rely on freshmen to come in play.
“We’re starting to get the balance you need to have so you can recruit and develop. You can redshirt and your veteran players become your top players. That’s something that has me excited.”
Of the 19 players on Wednesday’s list — Wilder said there could be more to come — the most realistic to see immediate playing time are quarterback Jordan Hoy and tight end DeAndre Woods. That’s because neither is a freshman.
Hoy, originally from Rockwall, Texas, played one season at Fullerton (Calif.) Community College. He threw for 3,434 yards with 37 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Hoy’s TD/INT ratio is very similar to that of David Washington, ODU’s starter last season.
“Hoy was recruited to come in and compete right away,” Wilder said. “But it’s been made clear to him, he’s going to have to beat out the quarterbacks who are here. He’ll start at the bottom, beneath the guys who are here now.”
Woods is a graduate student from Vanderbilt who will have two seasons of eligibility. His career there was interrupted by injuries, but he’s healthy and could begin the season on the two-deep.
“Woods is what we’re trying to get to with the tight end, H-back position,” Wilder said. “Similar to what you saw with Melvin (Vaughn, last season’s starter) this year with the ability to play on the line or off the line.”
Of the 19 players in the class, 10 are 6-foot-3 or taller. To Wilder, that matters not only in Conference USA games but against the non-conference competition ODU will be facing in the coming years (Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Virginia among them).
ODU added five defensive linemen, including Bethel’s Janaz Jordan (6-4, 290).
“We looked for not only size, but athleticism,” he said. “Most of those guys played both sides of the ball. Janaz Jordan was playing tailback. And there’s some position flexibility, not only with the interior defensive linemen but with the edge players.”
It wasn’t a perfect day — tailback Matthew Laroche from Venice, Fla., who committed to ODU last week, signed with Georgia Southern of the Sun Belt. But unlike previous years, the Monarchs were able to hold off Power Five schools making late pushes.
“I was really pleased with the number of kids who stuck with their word,” Wilder said. “We had a number of situations where players were approached at the end and said, ‘No, I’m going to Old Dominion. That’s my school.’
“It was rewarding and gratifying to see and hear some of the things I heard. There’s still a lot of people out there who stick to their word and do what they say they’re going to do.”
Posted on: February 1, 2017, 5:44 pm