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Minium: Saturday's Spring Game is a Big Deal to ODU Football Players Vying for Playing Time

Bob Bradlee

NORFOLK, Va. – It's not a college football game, per se. In reality, it is just Old Dominion's 15th and final spring football practice.
But for the 90 or so players who will participate Saturday in the Priority Charity Bowl ODU Spring Game, it's much more than just the final practice of the spring.
For newcomers or those fighting for playing time, it's the last chance to impress coaches before fall practice begins in early August.
And it's also the first chance to play in front of family, friends and ODU fans since the Monarchs' bowl game last December in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"My mother and father, my entire family, they're all coming," said Isiah Paige, a senior wide receiver from Varina High School just outside of Richmond. "It's my last spring game and I'm looking forward to it.
"It's not a real game, but it's still a big deal for all of us."
The 2 p.m. contest at Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium is just one of three sports events to be held Saturday at Old Dominion. 
The ODU women's tennis team plays its Senior Day match against Georgia Southern at 10 a.m. at the Folkes-Stevens Tennis Center. Then, at 4 p.m., the ODU baseball team hosts James Madison in the second game of a three-game series.
Admission to the football spring game is free.
Second-year assistant coach Tarron Williams, who came to ODU last year from the University of Richmond, says that after five weeks of practice, the Monarch cornerbacks are ready to put on their game uniforms and play in front of fans.
Williams, who also previously coached at East Carolina, JMU, VMI and Lenoir-Rhyne, as well as his alma mater, Gardner-Webb, said he was pleasantly surprised by the large turnout of fans at last year's spring game.
"It was my first spring game here at ODU and I was thrilled at the community support we had," he said. "I hope there's a bigger crowd this spring."
Williams, who coaches ODU's cornerbacks, is like most Monarch defensive coaches, looking to replace starters.
It's a different story on offense, where ODU returns most of its starters and quarterback Grant Wilson, who played well in his first season as a starter last year.
"Grant is a better quarterback now than he was last season," Paige said. "He's more confident. You can see it in the way he carries himself. He's a leader."
Williams must replace both starters at cornerback and even in the age of the transfer portal, he said the process has proceeded smoothly.
ODU has three promising newcomers in Angelo Rankin Jr., a senior transfer from Richmond, Charles Yates Jr., a senior transfer from Arizona, and Quedrion Miles, a sophomore transfer from Virginia State who played at Green Run High in Virginia Beach.
ODU's top returnees at cornerback include Rasheed Reason, a senior from Vallejo, California who started four games last season; Khian'Dre Harris, a junior from Fairless, Pennsylvania; and Corey Chapman, a junior from Chesapeake's Hickory High School.
"We've got a good group of kids," Williams said. "We did a pretty good job of recruiting the right kids who fit in with our culture."
It helps, in this era of the transfer portal, in which so many new faces show up each spring and fall, that head coach Ricky Rahne has insisted on a culture in which newcomers are welcomed.
"The guys left over from last year really did a great job of embracing the new guys," Williams said. "The transition our new kids have made has been pretty good. They've all bought into what we're doing. They understand what we want, that we want them to show up every day on time for practice and on time academically and they're doing all of the right things."
College football has seen dramatic changes because of the transfer portal and Name Image and Likeness. But Williams said when it gets right down to it, "even though the rules change, the kids remain the same.
"We've done a nice job of vetting guys. And that makes the process of dealing with everything a little more digestible because we have the right kinds of kids."
He said he expects a spirited two hours of football.
"I know as a player that I cherished every chance I had to run out onto that field," he said. "Our players do, too."
NOTES: Season ticket renewals are going well, said Joe Rafanelli, senior associate athletic director for revenue generation and external operations. With Virginia Tech, East Carolina and James Madison all playing at ODU, it is the  most difficult and most attractive home schedule since the Monarchs began playing football in 2009. . . . If you're a season ticket holder with questions, or are thinking about purchasing season tickets, there will be a table at the southeast corner of the stadium near the ticket booth manned by ODU officials. May 1 is the deadline to renew season tickets. . . .  For information on renewing or purchasing new season tickets, CLICK HERE.  . . . All fans are asked to sit on the East Side of the Stadium, which is the side closest to Hampton Boulevard. Concessions stands will be open but will serve only limited offerings. . . . The weather forecast looks promising with sunny skies and a temperature of around 70 degrees forecast for 2 p.m.