Fourth year (27-8, all at ODU)
In a secure room deep below the Powhatan Complex, it's apparent that they have developed human cloning capabilities. Wilder, the Monarchs' happy warrior, is everywhere: camps, clinics, the recruiting trail, fundraising trips, media gatherings, bar mitzvahs, ship christenings, Model U.N. He was rumored to be at Burning Man this summer, looking for line prospects. If it's possible, the program's impending move to FBS has ramped up his energy and commitment. For all of his cheery accessibility, though, the man possesses a leader's bottom-line streak. It took him all of three days after the Monarchs' playoff loss to Georgia Southern to can his defensive coordinator and secondary coach. He demands a defense that complements the 'Narchs' national-caliber offense and imaginative, aggressive special teams. Expect him to work at it until it happens.
Soph. | 6-1 | 190 | QB
Took a battlefield promotion and ran with it. As a true freshman, he completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,385 yards, with 25 touchdowns and an astonishing one interception in 307 attempts. He's a little bigger and faster than last season and says he's more comfortable with the offense.
Sr. | 6-2 | 240 | LB
All-CAA at outside linebacker last season, he moves to the middle this season, to take advantage of his experience and athletic gifts. Far and away the Monarchs' leading tackler (111), his 14.5 tackles-for-loss were second only to defensive cornerstone Ronnie Cameron.
Sr. | 6-4 | 290 | DT
Third-team All-CAA last year and preseason all-conference pick for 2012. Started all 35 games the past three years, primarily at nose guard. Benefited from playing alongside Cameron, but effective in his own right. Blocked five kicks in his career.
The Monarchs appear to have this one covered. This is the program's last chance for postseason until 2015. Or ever, if the Mayans are correct. ODU cannot win the CAA title and automatic playoff berth that comes with it because of the impending departure for Conference USA and FBS. So the 'Narchs must take advantage of this opportunity and remove all doubt in the minds of the playoff selection committee. Working in their favor is that the CAA is such a strong league that a top-three or top-four finish is likely to ensure a playoff berth. Once in, Frisco's the limit. They take heart from last year's playoff performance. They drew the worst possible second-round matchup, against Georgia Southern and its triple-option offense, which they were unable to defend for various reasons. They still hung 48 points on the Eagles. Had the 'Narchs been bracketed differently, they very easily could have advanced further.
In its first year as an all-in, competing CAA member, ODU played with house money: no track record; modest expectations; loose and free, with nothing to lose. No reasonable person would have predicted that the Monarchs would win 10 games, go to the playoffs, put up track meet offensive numbers, and their true freshman QB channel Joe Montana. No sneaking up on anyone this year. Everyone knows what the Monarchs are about. No one overlooks a team picked to finish in the top two and that appears capable of hoisting a phantom trophy when it's over. The 'Narchs were among the national leaders in turnover margin last year, due in large part to Heinicke committing exactly two turnovers in approximately 600 snaps. How does ODU respond in the event of a few more giveaways, a few more unlucky bounces, opponents that play with the same joie de vivre that they themselves exhibited a year ago? Wilder's work ethic and the demands he puts on his players temper the hype surrounding the program. Still, it'll be interesting to watch a team that in 12 months came from off the radar to center stage.