Ricky’s Conference USA NCAAF pick for 2017 is the Old Dominion Monarchs.
The Monarchs got exceptional play at the QB position last season and will now await the outcome of the multiple-player battle for the 2017 starting role. The favorite is sophomore Blake LaRussa who may not have ideal size but has impressed so far in camp. The longshot is 17 year old true freshman Steven Williams who has turned heads. Stay tuned.
The running game could be the best in the conference. The Monarchs bring back their excellent 1-2 punch in Ray Lawry and Jeremy Cox who combined for almost 2,000 yards rushing and 24 TDs in 2016. The offensive line paved the way for 5.1 yards per carry and only allowed 19 sacks last year and they return 4/5 starters. The Monarchs lose last season’s #1 WR Zach Pascal but still look really good at the position. This offense has a really high ceiling if the QB(s) can overachieve.
Old Dominion finished last season ranked 3rd in CUSA in total defense and allowed just 27 points per contest. They were tied for 2nd in sacks as they managed to get excellent penetration. This season they bring back 6 starters and look pretty good on the DL and in the secondary. The line features a pair of dangerous pass rushers (Oshane Ximines, Bunmi Rotimi) who combined for 14.5 sacks last season. The defensive backfield brings back 3/4 starters including 2nd Team CUSA CB Brandon Addison. The question is at LB where they lose their top-2 leading tacklers from the 2016 team. We still feel this defense is good enough on paper to keep them in the hunt for a division title.
Things look decent. PK Brad Davis nailed 10/12 FG attempts in 2016. The return units should be fine even with the departure of dangerous KR Zach Pascal. Their punting was poor last year (last in CUSA punting average) and hopefully P Bailey Cate can improve.