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Minium: ODU Football Using Tough Early Schedule as Incentive to Prepare in Spring Practice


NORFOLK, Va. – Old Dominion defensive coordinator Blake Seiler has just three full-time returning starters, and his best returnee, All-American linebacker Jason Henderson, isn't expected to fully recover from a knee injury until fall practice.
Among those departing were all four starters in the defensive backfield.
And the Monarchs will have little margin for error when the season begins on Aug. 31 at South Carolina, an SEC opponent that has won six consecutive home games against non-Power Five opponents.
In fact, ODU opens with three very difficult games before an open date on Sept. 21.
A week after traveling to Columbia, South Carolina, ODU opens its home schedule on Sept. 7 against East Carolina, a team the Monarchs have never beaten, and then Virginia Tech on Sept. 14. The Hokies have never beaten ODU in Norfolk and surely will be looking to make amends this time.
Seiler, for one, embraces the challenge presented by those first three games.

"I think it's a good thing," Seiler said after ODU's fourth workout of spring practice. "It really gives our players some urgency to prepare.
"I mean, we're not starting off with a cupcake. And would you want it any other way?
"It gives the guys incentive to prepare all spring and summer. And then when fall camp comes, we have to be ready to hit the ground running. We have to be ready to put our best foot forward in that first game.
"I mean, you came to college to play an SEC opponent in their house. That's something you're going to remember for the rest of your life."
Seiler has a host of talented newcomers and returnees, many of whom didn't start but played a lot.
ODU's defense begins with Henderson, who led the nation in tackles per game last season. Head coach Ricky Rahne said he expects Henderson to be ready to practice in August, when the Monarchs begin fall camp.
"Jason will be back," Seiler said. "And he'll be stronger than he was. But right now, we've got to keep working without him. For us, it's the next-man up mentality."
And in this day of the transfer portal, that means working with a lot of newcomers. Among the candidates to start in the defensive backfield are four newcomers, all transfers from four-year schools.
Safety Will Jones II came from South Florida, where the Mansfield, Texas native played two seasons. He also started two games as a redshirt freshman at Kansas State.
Safety Patrick Smith-Young, from Missouri City, Texas, was second last season at North Texas with 77 tackles.

Cornerback Angelo Rankin Jr., from Wichita, Kansas, transfers from Richmond, where he had 59 tackles, 12 pass breakups and two interceptions in three seasons. Cornerback Charles Yates Jr., from Mobile, Alabama, played junior college football at Los Angeles Pierce College. He transferred from Arizona, where he played in five games.
Of all the newcomers, Seiler said: "I think we're drinking from the firehose right now,"
"Every year, in this modern age of college football, our defense is always going to be a work in progress during the spring," he added. "You have so many news players, so as coaches, we've really tried to simplify our schemes as much as possible.
"You're not counting on the second, third and fourth-year guy like you used to."
Asked how he likes his defense, Seiler said he will know more in the fall, after spring practice and summer workouts and after freshmen are scheduled to arrive.
"It's a little early right now, but you see the talent," he said of his newcomers. "The good news is that we have them here now. Last year we were replacing a lot of guys in the backfield and they showed up during the summer.
"Our team speed is as good on the back end as it's been. We also have numbers. This might be as deep as we've been in the secondary since I've been here."
This will be ODU's fourth season under Rahne and company – the Monarchs sat out the 2020 season because of the pandemic.
Returning cornerback Rasheed Reason will vy for a starting nod. The senior from Vallejo, California, was a junior college transfer last fall. He had 34 tackles and seven pass breakups in 2023.
"He has an elite level of quickness," Seiler said. "Last year was his first time playing Division I football. You can see him getting more and more comfortable with it."
Amore Morrison, a graduate of Salem High in Virginia Beach, is back at defensive end after an injury-plagued 2023 season in which had had 21 tackles, a sack and 4.5 tackles for a loss.
Kris Trinidad started last season at the other end and the Richmond native had 36 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for a loss.
Denzel Lowry, a junior from Landstown High in Virginia Beach, started at defensive tackle last season and was an honorable mention All-Sun Belt pick with 46 tackles, three sacks and five tackles for a loss.
"Denzel has been dominant for us up front and he keeps getting better," Seiler said.
Defensive tackle Jalen Satchell, who transferred from Temple last season, was hobbled with injuries parts of last season, but started in six games and had 16 tackles and a sack. 
"It's good to see him healthy and moving around," Seiler said.
"At the end of the day, defense is about keeping the points down, eliminating touchdowns, and making them kick field goals. If they can move the ball but can't score touchdowns, it's hard for teams to beat you."
Seiler said that ODU continues to recruit and with scholarships available and players still entering the transfer portal, it's possible the Monarchs may recruit more defensive players before fall camp.
"Recruiting is year-around now," Seiler said. "It never stops."
And when might coaches take a day off?
Seiler smiled broadly and answered: "After our bowl game."
Minium is ODU's Senior Executive Writer for Athletics. Contact him at or follow him  on TwitterFacebook or Instagram