2018 Season Preview: Old Dominion Monarchs

Season outlook 

The Monarchs are looking for a bounce-back season after finishing 2017 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the C-USA.  Old Dominion will lean on their running game in 2018.  Senior center Nick Clarke (6'4, 315) has started 34 games in the past three seasons and is on the Rimington Trophy watch list to begin the season.  Clarke will spearhead the rushing attack for senior Jeremy Cox (6'0, 235). Cox ran for 621 yards last season and caught 20 passes for 176 yards. On the outside, senior wide receiver Jonathan Duhart (6'3, 209) missed all but two games last season with a broken foot but in 2016 had 735 receiving yards. The defensive is also senior-laden and has steadily improved each year under defensive coordinator Rich Nagy, who enters his fifth season at the helm. On special teams, return man Isaiah Harper (5'9, 170) is a guy to keep your eye on. Harper was last year's C-USA Player of the Year and finished 10th in FBS in kickoff return average at 29.1 yards per return. Old Dominion was marred by injuries and youth in 2017,  but if they can get lucky injury-wise, look for the Monarchs to become bowl eligible.

Troy's player to watch

7 Oshane Ximines 6'3 247 OLB-STUD-Senior
Ximines, a senior defensive end, has improved his sack totals every season.  Last season, he set a Monarch school record with 8.5 sacks and will enter this season as one of the best pass rushers in Conference USA.  Ximines is second among active FBS players with 21 sacks.  If he can continue to produce at his gaudy pace, he could very well get an opportunity to play on Sundays in 2019.

Game of the season

October 6th at Florida Atlantic
Despite a home tilt against Virginia Tech on the schedule, a road game against Florida Atlantic will have stronger conference implications.  FAU is the coaches pick to win the conference.  Old Dominion enjoyed one of its best seasons in team history in 2016, behind a sensational record in the conference (10-3 overall, 7-1 C-USA).  If Old Dominion wants to establish itself as a conference power, a win against FAU in Boca Raton would go a long way.  The Owls defeated ODU 58-28 in Norfolk.

DraftNasty's Prospect Watch

9 Jonathan Duhart 6'3 221 WR-Senior

For Duhart, it all comes down to his health.  Much of his productivity throughout his career (19 career TD receptions) has been aided by his physicality.  On top of that, he's a big-time leaper capable of timing jump balls consistently in either the open field or Red Zone.  Despite the fact that he's not a speed-burner, Duhart has been effective boxing out defenders in short areas with quickness and bulk.  In addition, he's also been satisfactory working in the slot.  In 2017, he appeared in just two games after breaking the fifth metatarsal in his left foot.  If he can regain his pre-injury form, look for Duhart to use his strength to ward off a number of the cornerbacks Conference USA has to offer week-to-week.  If so, NFL scouts will take notice.

Prediction: 8-4

According to Draftnasty's Troy Jefferson, Old Dominion will become bowl-eligible in 2018.  The Monarchs will lose home contests versus Virginia Tech, Marshall and North Texas.  They also will get upended on the road at Western Kentucky

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