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UTEP at Old Dominion: Four Monarchs to Watch

ODU will present the same challenges most teams have this season, but boast a trio of explosive offensive players who will give UTEP fits on defense.

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Old Dominion is one of the more explosive teams in the nation according to advanced stats.

The Monarchs rank 17th the nation is IsoPP and rank 12th in rushing IsoPP which can be attributed to three main players who have consistently emerged over the past couple of weeks.

Here are three offensive players, and one defensive player UTEP has to have eyes on Saturday morning.

Ray Lawry, RB

Lawry currently leads the conference with 1,069 yards rushing, and became the first ODU running back to reach 1,000 rushing yards in their school's history.  40.5% of Lawry's carries lead to big play opportunities, and he has only fumbled three times in 185 carries this season. He's also been targeted 20 times in the pass game and averages 7.8 yards per catch on his 20 receptions. At 5'10, 200 pounds he is on his way to breaking every rushing record in Old Dominion's short history, as well as earning the sacred NFL prospect label.  Lawry showed flashes of top of the league potential last year, it's safe to say he's kicked that door in this year and should be considered a top-5 running back in the league going forward.

TJ Ricks, LB

Averaging 10.4 tackles per game which leads C-USA, Ricks is a crafty linebacker who just keeps things in front of him. He accounts for 12.1% of ODU's solo tackles, and also has five pass break ups in pass coverage.  What he does best is use leverage with his 6'0 frame along with his speed to create havoc which rates 4.2% of ODU's havoc production on defense ranking them 68th in the nation thanks to Ricks. A former walk-on can, Ricks also be considered one of the more consistent tacklers in C-USA with a relentless motor that gives running backs fits when he blitzes.

Zach Pascal, WR

Pascal has been ODU's number one target in the pass game with 78 targets on the season.  He has a catch rate of 56.4% which is mediocre possibly due to ODU's uncertain quarterback situation early in the season.  With David Washington coming along as a consistent yard producer at quarterback, Pascal looks to be a big key in ODU's pass game against UTEP.  He has NFL size, and racked up 231 yards and three touchdowns against Charlotte earlier this season.  Look for ODU to repeatedly  take deep shots against UTEP's man coverage with the talented Pascal who has tremendous ball skills, hands, and body separation on deep balls.

David Washington, OB

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Washington had a career day last week against UTSA.  The converted wide receiver threw for 378 yards and two touchdowns, adding an important 69 yards on the ground as well. At 6'3, he has superb pocket presence for a guy who hasn't played quarterback all that much, and has a pretty good/interesting deep ball that he can skyrocket for his big wideouts in Pascal and Jonathon Duhart.  The most concerning thing for UTEP to defend is the read option with him and Lawry in the backfield.  Time and time again he gashed UTSA on important downs with a perfect decision on the read-option, and yeah....he's got receiver speed.  He caught a touchdown pass last year in the Sun Bowl against UTEP, and should have high flying confidence from last week's output.  The key will be in containing Washington and not allowing to create big plays through the air, off scrambles, and more importantly off the zone-read option.