Wednesday was a monumental day for head coach Bobby Wilder and the Old Dominion University football program. On National Signing Day, the Monarch football team received 23 National Letters of Intent. This is in addition to the 11 student athletes that had previously signed and enrolled for the spring semester for a total of 34. The transition to FBS has given the Monarchs the ability to aggressively offer scholarships at a higher rate. “We’re moving right now from having 63 scholarships at the FCS level to 85 at the FBS level and that’s part of the reason that this class is so large,” Wilder said.
Acquiring talent within your state is one of the most crucial aspects of recruiting. If a team is unable to get the local talent, it may find itself playing against them sooner or later. Old Dominion was able to sign eight players inside Virginia, five of them hailing from the Hampton Roads area. Wilder had “mixed emotions” about the instate job they did with this class. “The most players from this class are from Virginia, we have eight, but I felt like there could have been more. Some of the student athletes we were recruiting went elsewhere…” Wilder said. “I’m disappointed that some went out of Virginia, so it could’ve been better but I like the local players we signed.” Out of Hampton, the Monarchs were able to sign three standout defensive players: Linebacker Richie Staton, Safety Daquin Moore, and Linebacker Atavius Matthews. When looking for talent, Phoebus, Hampton, and Oscar Smith High Schools have a plethora of Division-1 ready players. “Arguably anywhere in the country over the last 10 years those are three of the winning-est programs in the country,” Wilder said.
The Monarchs success over the years has been watched by many, including prospective college football players. With their high-powered offense, Old Dominion grabbed the attention of college football fans across the nation. Taylor Heinicke’s record setting 730-yard passing game became a topic on ESPN’s Sportscenter throughout the following week. Wilder bluntly told how much the playoff push helped with recruiting. “A lot,” Wilder said. “I think the fact that we were 11-2 this year, the fact that we were on national television three times, and we were on regional television a couple of other times, the fact that the Georgia Southern game was the game of the week,” Wilder said. With the televised games garnering recognition for the Monarchs, people began to realize just what this Old Dominion football team is about. “That day after we lost to Georgia Southern I was in California, people watched that game. We walked in to schools and they knew about us and that game. We went to Florida for the first time this year and people knew our name…so our names getting out there.” Wilder said. The Monarchs reached further outside of Virginia this year, signing five players from Texas (Linebacker DJ Simon, Quarterback Shane McCarley, Cornerback Jevon Neal, tight end Gerard Shillow, offensive lineman Kyle Bottoms).
The only consistency in life is change and for the lives of Monarch coaches, players and fans, this is a positive change. The Monarchs had a positive signing day that will hopefully continue as they travel to Greenville, North Carolina on Aug. 31. For complete details on National Signing Day, go to ODUSports.com
By: Mitchell Brown