ODU hopes competition and talent compensate for inexperience

Bobby Wilder delivered a simple message to the 49 new players in Old Dominion’s program at Tuesday evening’s team meeting: Don’t tell anybody you’re playing; don’t tell anybody you’re redshirting.

Regardless of class, experience or position, Wilder said that everyone on the roster could earn playing time this season and that every position is up for grabs. Well, maybe not starting quarterback, but every other position.

Wilder also told the players that even if they don’t play against East Carolina or Maryland — the first two games — don’t assume that they’ll be redshirted or buried on the depth chart the remainder of the season.

“The best 11 are going to play, followed by the 12th and the 13th guy after that and so on,” Wilder said Wednesday. “The depth chart is probably going to change almost daily. It’ll probably change in week one (of the season) and week two.

“We’re not starting over,” Wilder said. “We’re starting new. We’re going to be in a developmental phase all season.”

The Monarchs’ depth chart from earlier this week included 19 players who have never taken a game snap in an ODU uniform. Understandable, given the fact that half of the roster fits that description, and that they recruited a higher caliber of athlete for the program’s transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

“I can see us going to East Carolina on Aug. 31 with half the players dressing on the two-deep never having played a game at Old Dominion,” Wilder said. “There’s both trepidation and excitement. Trepidation because we lack game experience, excitement because this is the most talented team, top to bottom, that we’ve ever had.”

Ten true freshmen or redshirt freshmen are on the two-deep released Tuesday. Included are true freshman Melvin Vaughn, a wide receiver from Oscar Smith listed as a starter, and Richie Staton, a true freshman from Phoebus listed as backup to Paul Morant at rover.

Asked if he might curtail the competition and daily revolving door at various positions, in order to develop some cohesiveness and continuity within various units, Wilder said absolutely not.

“There won’t be a point where we will stop the competition,” he said. “It’ll be a year-long process, from play one against East Carolina to the last play of the North Carolina game.”

Philosophically, he said, he wants the players to remain engaged and to believe that they can always earn playing time at any point during the season — redshirt decisions aside.

Besides, he asked, what if somebody doesn’t play well? Gotta be replaced.

Wilder spoke of the coming season as part of a two-year process.

“What we did in 2010 allowed us to compete for the (CAA) conference championship in 2011,” he said. “In 2013 it’s the same blueprint we hope will allow us to compete for the Conference USA championship in 2014. We’re following the same model we did three years ago, but instead of it being at the FCS level, it’s at the FBS level.”

Which isn’t to say that he and the team have written off 2013, despite a mish-mashed schedule and the fact that the Monarchs cannot compete for a title.

“We want to have a measure of success,” Wilder said. “We want to win every game we play. But the fact that we play a full Conference USA schedule next year and Conference USA said that we’re eligible to compete for the conference title, we want to do everything possible to put ourselves in position to be in that championship game, and that includes what we do this season.”

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad