In its first venture into Football Bowl Subdivision recruiting, Old Dominion sought quantity, quality and depth at every position. The Monarchs aimed high, lost more battles than they won, but still helped themselves in the transition to the next level.
ODU's 34-player class includes 23 who signed letters-of-intent on National Signing Day and 11 others who enrolled in January for the spring semester and will participate in spring practice.
"I've called it the best class that I've been associated with in my 25 years of coaching," head coach Bobby Wilder said Wednesday, "and the reason I say that is because I feel like we filled positional needs at every position. Generally, that does not happen in recruiting.
"I'm very excited, top to bottom, with the fact that at every position on this football team, we feel like we had good success in recruiting."
The Monarchs' recruiting class is dotted with two-star recruits and one three-star prospect: defensive tackle Cullen Casey from Rochester, N.Y.
Unlike previous years, ODU has only eight in-state recruits, five of which are from Hampton Roads. Wilder said that the Monarchs had to broaden recruiting efforts — they landed players from Florida, Texas and California — because they're competing at a higher level and cannot count on landing the caliber of player they need from Virginia at this stage of the program's development.
The five local players are Richie Staton and Atavius Matthews from Phoebus, Daquin Moore from Hampton, and Kanyia Anderson and Melvin Vaughn from Oscar Smith.
ODU will play a transition schedule in 2013, as it prepares to join Conference USA in 2014 and become bowl-eligible in 2015. C-USA officials recently announced that the Monarchs would be eligible for the conference title in 2014, one year earlier than originally planned, as they are playing a full league schedule in 2014.
ODU's recruiting efforts were as much numerical and class balance as talent grab. With more scholarships available in the move from FCS (63) to FBS (85), Wilder and his staff went after a handful of junior college players rather than fill the roster solely with high school talent. That assures the program won't lose an inordinately high number of players four or five years from now.
The aim, he said, is to redshirt most of the players in the incoming freshman class, so that they are ready to contribute in 2014.
"But by (2015) and '16, when they're sophomores and juniors," Wilder said, "they've got to be able to play at a championship level. … This is the class that's going to carry us to that. The subsequent classes are going to be the same way, but … these kids have got to play and they've got to play well, some of them probably before they're ready."
Wilder said that the Monarchs will continue to recruit for next season and that there's no timetable or specific number of players that they'll sign.
"We're trying to complete this class with the best players we can find," he said. "We'll stop when we feel like there aren't Conference USA players left to recruit. There isn't a hard number with this class, similar to that first class we signed in 2008. There wasn't a hard number, but there was a thought process of, we've got to budget some of this money."
Wilder said that the program's success and TV exposure at least allowed the coaches to open some recruiting doors out of the region. When he went to California for several days after the playoff loss to Georgia Southern on ESPN, he said that coaches and players were familiar with ODU. Same thing in Florida and Texas and South Carolina, where the Monarchs hadn't really recruited before.
Wilder described ODU football being surrounded by a "horseshoe" of FBS programs in close proximity: Virginia Tech and Virginia in the state, Maryland and Navy to the north, and the four ACC North Carolina schools and East Carolina to the south.
"All nine of those FBS schools have become accustomed to coming into Virginia and having their selection of the best of the best in recruiting," he said. "That's one of the challenges we're facing and one we intend to overcome in the near future.
"Right now, they've got bigger and better than we do," he said, referring to stadia, facilities and tradition. "That's the only thing that's remotely holding us back."
Wilder looks both long-term and short-term with the Monarchs' new players. Nine of the 11 recruits already enrolled in school are defensive players, since that's the area of immediate need. ODU allowed 30 points and 420 yards per game last season, and three times gave up more than 500 yards of offense.
"I feel like these guys we brought in at the mid year are going to help us," he said. "But it's going to be a work in progress. I don't think we solved every issue, personnel-wise, just with this class.
"I feel like we've got some really good football players here and we just need to coach better. A lot of our problems last year had to do with the fact that we didn't coach very well last year. That starts with me. We have to coach a little better to get this defense playing better than we did, which I know we can do."
OLD DOMINION SIGNEES
(Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Hometown/High School)
Ely Anderson*, OL, 6-5, 285, Santa Rosa, Calif./Santa Rosa JC.
Kanyia Anderson*, DE, 6-2, 215, Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Smith.
T.J. Armstrong*, LB, 6-2, 225, Clarion, Pa./Clarion Area.
Anthony Bonett, WR, 6-0, 190, Moorestown, N.J./Moorestown.
Cam Boyd, RB, 5-6, 180, Dumfries, Va./Forest Park/West Hills CC (Calif.).
Kyle Bottoms*, OL, 6-4, 300, Klein, Texas/Blinn College (Texas).
Jude Brenya, DE, 6-3, 235, Cranberry, N.J./Hightstown.
Wesley Bullock Jr., RB, 5-7, 155, Tampa, Fla./H.B. Plant.
Cullen Casey, DT, 6-3, 280, Rochester, N.Y./McQuaid Jesuit.
Sandy Chapman, CB, 5-10, 150, Raleigh, N.C./Southeast Raleigh.
Rashaad Coward, DL, 6-5, 285, Brooklyn, N.Y. Sheepshead Bay.
Nick England, WR, 6-0, 175, Suwanee, Ga./Collins Hill/Fla. International
Davis Farmer, OL, 6-5, 290, Leesville, S.C./Gilbert.
Tyler Fisher, OT, 6-3, 295, Richmond, Va./Salisbury (Conn.).
Jai Franklin, DT, 6-3, 275, Upper Marlboro, Md./Dr. Henry A. Wise.
Malik Gumbs*, DT, 6-1, 275, Matawan, N.J./Nassau CC.
Eric Hampson, OL, 6-5, 315, Largo, Fla./Pinellas Park.
Gerard Johnson, WR, 5-9, 174, Richmond, Va./Meadowbrook.
Atavius Matthews, LB, 6-1, 220, Hampton, Va./Phoebus.
Shane McCarley, QB, 6-0, 195, Manvel, Texas/Manvel.
Daquin Moore, S, 6-3, 195, Hampton, Va./Hampton.
Malik Moseley, RB, 5-11, 195, Greensboro, N.C./Southern Guilford.
Jevon Neal*, CB, 5-9, 190, Austin, Texas/Blinn College (Texas).
Kevin Privott, WR, 6-1, 175, Ahoskie, N.C./Hertford County.
Gary Scruggs*, DE, 6-1, 260, Glassboro, N.J./ASA College.
Gerard Shillow Jr., TE, 6-3, 245, Round Rock, Texas/Stony Point/Navarro College (Texas).
D.J. Simon*, LB, 6-1, 220, Cosciana, Texas/Navarro College (Texas).
Chris Smith*, DT, 6-2, 300, Santa Rosa, Calif./Santa Rosa JC.
Richie Staton, LB, 6-1, 225, Hampton, Va./Phoebus.
Rob Thompson*, CB, 6-1, 175, Hammonton, N.J./St. Joseph.
Melvin Vaughn, WR, 6-2, 220, Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Smith.
Jake Walsh, P, 6-5, 210, Victoria, Australia/Ivanhoe Grammar/LaTrobe (Australia).
Scott Wiggins*, DE, 6-2, 225, Roselle, N.J./Fork Union Military Academy (Virginia).
Aaron Young, CB, 5-11, 180, Washington, D.C./Archbishop Carroll
* Player had signed previously and is already enrolled in classes and will participate in spring football.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun