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Minium: ODU Football Opens Spring Practice With a Starting Quarterback and Ton of Offensive Returnees


NORFOLK, Va. – For the first time since he was hired as Old Dominion's football coach more than four years ago, head coach Ricky Rahne began spring practice Tuesday with a starting quarterback, even though, technically, he did not name a starter.
"Sometimes you don't have to name a starter," he said. Grant Wilson worked with the first team on Tuesday and was made available for interviews, so Rahne is right – his status as the starter is apparent.
Wilson, a transfer from Fordham, started for the first time in his career last season and was at times outstanding. He completed 178-of-312 passes for 2,149 yards and 17 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He also rushed for 606 yards, although when you factor in sacks, he rushed for 291 yards.
He leads an offense that returns eight starters and added two coaches from Tennessee, from where ODU's offense originated. David Weeks will coach ODU's tight ends and Kody Cook the Monarch wide receivers.
Rahne hired Kevin Decker away from Fordham a year ago and he brought with him a wide-open spread attack that began at Tennessee, and prior that UCF, a few years ago. Wilson said the offense has morphed some because of the two new coaches.
"It's been like picking and choosing what they do well and what we do well and then combining them and just kind of solidifying our offensive game plan," Wilson said.
"It's really helped us that they came here."

Rahne said the offense looked good Tuesday, although it's early to tell at this point because the players are in helmets and jerseys only.
ODU returns two of its top three running backs in KeShawn Wicks and Obie Sanni, and five of its top six wide receivers in Reymello Murphy, Kelby Williams, Isiah Paige, Ahmarian Granger and Dominic Dutton.
But there are plenty of holes to fill on defense, where only three starters return. And Jason Henderson, the All-American linebacker who led the nation in tackling last season, is still rehabbing from offseason knee surgery.
"I feel good," Henderson said. "I've been working hard."
And with the exception of a knee brace, he looks as strong as ever.
He won't participate in spring practice, but Rahne said "I expect him to work and be ready for (fall) camp," which begins in August.
"He's a guy who we all know can do amazing things with his body."
Jack Shields and redshirt freshman Colton Joseph both appeared to throw well in practice. "I was pleased with our quarterbacks today and our wide receivers I thought looked improved," Rahne said.
Rahne added 27 players in the offseason, including freshman quarterback Quinn Henicle, a three-star recruit from the Philadelphia suburb of Downingtown, Pennsylvania, who will report to ODU this summer.
ODU also recruited nine transfers from four-year schools, including five from the Power Five.
Zach Barlev, a 6-foot-3, 305-pound offensive lineman, played in 25 games at Illinois. Tight end Pat Conroy (6-2, 235) caught 37 passes for 704 yards and 12 touchdowns at Merrimack.
Safety Patrick Smith-Young was second in tackling at North Texas last season and running back Aaron Young rushed 161 times for 586 yards and seven touchdowns at Rutgers. Wide receiver Diante Vines caught 12 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown at Iowa last season.
ODU has one of the most difficult schedules in the Group of Five. In addition to playing eight schools in the Sun Belt Conference, widely considered the best among the Group of Five, ODU opens at South Carolina (Aug. 31), then hosts East Carolina (Sept. 7) and Virginia Tech (Sept. 14) and then, after a weekend off, travels to Bowling Green on Sept. 28.
Add home games with Texas State (Oct. 19), Georgia Southern (Thursday, Oct. 24), James Madison (Nov. 16), and Marshall (Nov. 23), ODU has its strongest home schedule ever.
Current season ticket holders can renew their season tickets, and others can reserve tickets, beginning Wednesday.
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ODU's two previous home games against Virginia Tech in 2018 and 2022, both won by the Monarchs, sold out to season-ticket holders. Tickets never went on sale to the general public.
Rahne said his team won't be a finished product at the end of the spring. That will not occur until the fall, and by then, the Monarchs could have 20 or more newcomers on their roster, depending how many more transfers ODU recruits.
"I think what you're doing in the spring is really trying to establish the culture, how you're going to practice, those sort of things," he said.
"You want to see which guy is going to able to take over the meeting room and carry that over onto the field. You're going to really try to establish who your leaders are.
"A lot of our newcomers may not feel like they have a leadership position yet, but a lot of times, that is what is required."
ODU led the nation in heart-stopping finishes last season, with 11 of their 13 games being decided by one score or less, and many were won or lost on the last play.
ODU won six of those games, including wins at Georgia Southern and at home against Georgia State in it final two regular-season games to clinch a bid to the Famous Toastery Bowl.
The Monarchs led Western Kentucky, 28-0, in the Charlotte bowl games, but lost, 38-35 in overtime.
Wilson said finishing strong in close games "is absolutely one of the main focuses this year. It's just a relentless effort to have a dominating finish in everything we do.
"It's kind of coach Rahne's ending to every single meeting we have, just dominating finish in everything we do, from the classroom to the weight room to everything we do on the field."
Reporters gathered at spring practice asked repeated questions about how long it took to get over the loss to Western Kentucky.
Apparently, it took five hours or less, the length of time it took to drive from Charlotte to Norfolk.
Rahne rode back from Charlotte on a bus with his family. He was lamenting the loss until his youngest son, Jake Rahne, made a joke about the game. His father laughed and the atmosphere on the bus changed from tension to relief.
"I don't get to spend much time with my family, so I'm not going to sit there and stew the entire trip back," he said.
"I don't remember the joke. I don't even think it was a good one. But it was one of those where I was laughing at the fact that he had the guts to make it."
Asked how long it took to get over the loss to Western Kentucky, Wilson said "it was tough that night on the bus ride back.
"But I woke up the next morning and got to work."
Spring practice concludes on Saturday, April 13, with the annual Priority Charity Bowl ODU Spring Game at Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium.
Admission is free to the 2 p.m. contest. Rahne said he would like to see a big crowd at the game.
"I hear people say how much they miss football," he said. "Well, there's free football right there. It helps our kids to have a good atmosphere and helps us in recruiting,
"It's a Saturday and generally the weather is nice. If you're looking for free things to do with your kids, there's one good one right there."