Old Dominion finished 5-7 and 3-5 in conference while starting a 17-year old Steven Williams for most of the year. There were injuries — Ray Lawry missed time throughout and the run game the was supposed to be a strength had to figure it out week-to-week.
Blake LaRussa was the early starter but lost his job to fantastic freshman Williams by the North Carolina game. There were flashes of the future — the 17/24 240 yard 2 TD game against FIU was beautiful — and lots of learning done.
In the end Williams finished with 11 INTs against only 6 TDs. The idea was the rely on the run game and trust Williams to provide enough through the air to supplement the offense. As it was, the run game was not as great as 2016 (mostly because the pass game was unthreatening) and Williams was no David Washington.
Defensively, the Monarchs were still stout, but put in worse positions because of turnovers, punts and the like.
Bobby Wilder is a good coach and will have this team ready to compete in 2018. Despite hopes otherwise, losing David Washington was always going to be the biggest concern. ODU went with the future rather than going JUCO or looking at a transfer.
There is value in doing that — look at North Texas’ Mason Fine , reigning CUSA OPY, and his abysmal first year at the helm — but it requires a steady hand and patience.
The team sees the talent and ability in Steven Williams and that is a huge part in building a roster. Williams has loads of talent and everyone is hoping that it will be on display — sans mistakes — next season.
Calling the entire 2017 year the Steven Williams Learning Year is the truth but it was not always the plan. Wilder and the ODU staff offered something like 14 other QBs in 2016/2017 in anticipation for the 2017 season. LaRussa had more experience in the program and was expected to lead things.
As Robert Burns says:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
So it goes.
Bobby Wilder is one of the league’s best program-builders and there is little reason to doubt his abilities. Even in the down year, the Monarchs had a shot at going to a bowl game while playing one of the toughest schedules in CUSA.
From Mid-September to the end of October ODU played the reigning league champ, the future league champ, the West division champ, and two ACC schools — one ranked! — and the best defense in the league. Throw in the fact that FAU and UNT ranked 1 and 2 in offense to end the year.
In the end ODU played WKU and NT close, nearly stealing both. The Monarchs were a couple of 4th down conversions away from tying NT in Denton, and a late turnover from upsetting WKU.
There are good things happening in Norfolk and this season’s schedule should be a little easier (East Carolina instead of North) but the team is losing some big pieces. All time leading rusher Lawry is graduating, and so is DE Bunmi Rotimi, who had 5.5 sacks on the other side of Oshane Ximenes.
Things are looking up but hope will not sustain a program.