NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY)- Like all Old Dominion football practices, players moved quickly from drill to drill. Head coach Bobby Wilder and his staff try to simulate game speed. But today they do it with more players than coach Wilder has ever had on the field at once.
“So many new faces out here. You see how we operate out here. We try to get them to move fast and think fast. I like their energy and enthusiasm. I’m really excited about the season,” said Wilder.
Excited for once again a new beginning for the Monarchs. This team will compete as a full member of Conference USA with goals of winning a league title and going to the programs first ever FBS bowl game. But Wilder says the first two weeks of practice are critical to the teams overall success.
“Each day there is a mental element to it because we are trying to instill the playbook these first 5 to 7 practices, pretty much everything is going to be put in on offense, defense and special teams so this is the hardest time for them mentally.”
Wilder and his staff will also figure out the depth chart over the next two weeks with a close eye on the defense.
“It’s a day by day process we have to grind it out. We have a good scheme coming in under coach Nagy who is in his second year. Guys feel confident. We just told them to not think much, just play fast and make plays,” said senior linebacker Andre Simmons.
And nobody on this team will be asked to make more plays than senior quarterback Taylor Heinicke who enters his final season as a Monarch. “Its exciting but its bittersweet. I’m excited that we are in camp, but its my last time and I feel like I just got here. I don’t want it to end, but it has to end at some point so I will try to enjoy it while it lasts,” said Heinicke.
Taylor and company will enjoy the sunrise practice sessions that have become a big favorite to coach Wilder for many reasons.
“The number one thing I have learned is that when I saw the forecast for this afternoon there are thunderstorms, so we would probably not get practice in if we practice this afternoon. You get out here and its in the mid 70’s perfect weather. We started holding morning practice because kids are still in school right now. I have 20 kids who are on their way to 9:00 a.m. class and we have students going to class throughout the day. This was the only time of day we could get them all together is 5:00 a.m. But this is the best time of day, they focus and work hard and then they have the rest of the day to do other things,” said Wilder.