Bring us up to speed on the ODU quarterback situation, do you feel David Washington should be the guy going forward?
Shuler Bentley was the prized recruit of ODU's first FBS class. The two time South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year had the unenviable task of being the guy, following the guy (Taylor Heinicke). Bentley, as a freshman against FBS teams, is not Heinicke against FCS teams or Heinicke as a senior. It was just asking and expecting too much. He's still the guy just not right now. David Washington completely opens up the offense for ODU. He's arguably ODU's best football player and was in the process of learning the wide receiver position. Now ODU goes from trying to force the ball into his hands 5-10 times a game to snapping to him 80. In the three games where Washington has supplanted Bentley, ODU amassed 482, 498 and 548 yards from scrimmage. He's the guy.
What type of defensive scheme does ODU run, and who are a couple of guys that should be on UTEP's game plan?
ODU runs a pretty conservative 4-3 and does everything in their power to keep the ball in front of them. The Monarchs will give the receivers some room at the line and rally to the football. The Monarchs have only allowed 8 plays of 40 yards or more this season, a true bend and try not to break. ODU is blitzing more than last season, if they can ever get the opponent into an obvious passing down. ODU's best players are straight up the middle. Rashaad Coward (DT), TJ Ricks (MLB) and Fellonte Misher (S) are in my opinion All C-USA players. Where ODU has improved over last season is they have a pass rush, led by freshman Oshane Ximines. He's going to be a name to know.
Ray Lawry showed flashes of brilliance last year, what has led to his huge impact in 2015?
Lawry began the season as the focal point of the offense and led the nation in rushing through two weeks. Offensive coordinator Brian Scott wanted to get the ball in his hands as much as possible while they protected Bentley. I think Lawry would be the first to agree that he's had an inconsistent season for a variety of reasons. It is important to know that up until very recently, he was the only player on offense that teams had to account for. That has now changed and with a mobile QB in the backfield with him, he should be in position to average 150 yards per game down the stretch. I would expect ODU to lean on him heavily against UTEP, he's rested and this is a big game.
What's your biggest concern when you look at what UTEP does well, and what ODU has struggled with?
My biggest concern is not having the football. UTEP leads C-USA in time of possession while ODU is 12th. Last season in El Paso the Monarchs only ran 53 plays from scrimmage but still scored 35 points. I don't think 53 plays will yield enough points this time around. ODU has struggled with physical teams that can make splash plays from time to time on offense. I'm concerned that UTEP will go heavy and burn ODU on some misdirection, ODU has struggled with schemes that go East and West.
How has the ODU fan base handled an up and down year with the possibility of a playoff game this Saturday giving us all the truth on the bowl picture?
The fan base had held up better than one would expect. Things didn't look so good just a couple of weeks ago. The Monarchs nearly lost their homecoming game to Charlotte and then the next game took a 41-12 loss at FIU where they outgained the Golden Panthers by 50 yards! How is that possible? Still, the fan base has not budged. ODU continues to sell out every game and the fans are cautiously optimistic that Bobby Wilder and staff will pull another rabbit out of the hat. Last season ODU was 3-6 (5 game losing streak) and rallied to win their final three (all comebacks) to get bowl eligible. ODU has never endured a losing season and that is still in play for this team, one of the least experienced in the nation. ODU just needs to win their final two home games (UTEP, FAU) to get to six wins.
Score and one stat prediction.
ODU 33 UTEP 24
The Monarchs are piling up yards and finally have a field goal kicker (Chris Kirtley) to solve their red zone woes.
UTEP yields an unsightly 9.9 yards per pass attempt and ODU's pass game if finally clicking.
This could be a big Ray Lawry game. UTEP is improving against the run but adjustments will have to be made to account for ODU's Zach Pascal and Jonathan Duhart. Pencil Lawry in for 188 yards and two scores on the ground.
Big thanks to the guys over at ODU Bleed Blue for answering our questions. For more ODU insight check out there work over at www.odubleedblue.com