March 24, 2012
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

March 24, 2012

MONARCH MEDIA: Practice #1 Update:

Anyone who has been around the ODU Football program has certainly heard the words "Sudden Change" called out keeping the team on its toes with a change in game plan in the middle of practice.

However Saturday's "Sudden Change" came early as morning drills were pushed up two hours early due to the impending bad weather.

The captains for the Football Monarchs for the upcoming 2012 season include linebacker Craig Wilkins, defensive lineman Chris Burnette, and quarterback Taylor Heinicke.

"Our captains are selected based on their leadership skills on and off the field," said Wilder. "We evaluate their leadership in the community, on our campus, in the classroom, in the weight room, on the practice field, and finally during our games. All three of these student-athletes have displayed tremendous leadership skills and playing ability for our football program. They will be required to be leaders in all areas of our program."

"We will also have a deserving fourth captain each week during the season," added Wilder. "The fourth captain will be selected based on his leadership skills displayed leading up to that particular game."

Wilkins, who led the Monarchs with 111 tackles last season, will be serving as team captain for the fourth straight year. Burnette, a rising senior who captured 49 and was among ODU's leaders in tackles for loss and sacks, and Heinicke, the College Football Performance Award's National Freshman and Performer of the Year, will both be first-year captains.

"We Are One" is the theme for the Football Monarchs this spring.

"We need to play as one unit," said Wilder. "It cannot be just the offense, or just the defense, or just the special teams. All three phases need to work together for us to be successful."

What does captain Craig Wilkins expect out of the defense this upcoming season?

"We can get better in every aspect," commented Wilkins. "Better tackling, better pursuit to the ball, and also stopping the run. Last year we were good at stopping the run, but we weren't great."

"We have a lot of experience on pass coverage," the four-year captain also noted. "I think the secondary can be one of our strengths this year."

"That's the million dollar defensive question," said Wilder on the losses of defensive linemen Ronnie Cameron, Edmon McClam, and Chad King to graduation. "We've got a number we'll be looking at."

In particular Wilder noted the two transfers - Rahsaan Moore from Maryland and Ervin Johnson from Dean Junior College. Moore was an honorable mention all-state selection on defense at Wise High School, while as a junior he was an honorable mention All-Met selection posing 38 solo tackles, including five sacks, and an interception helping the Pumas reach the Class 4A state final. Johnson was a First Team All-Northeast Football Conference selection and helped his team to the Northeast Football Conference Championship. He totaled 20 tackles, including three for loss, as Dean Junior College finished the 2011 campaign at 8-1 overall and ranked eighth in the final NJCAA national poll.

"It's a void to fill, but I'm confident we will," said Wilder.

Wilder and his staff will be looking to improve the run game this spring.

"The run game was one of the areas offensively we were disappointed in," said Wilder. "Even though we were one of the top offenses in the nation in scoring, we were very inconsistent in the run game."

Wilder was quick to note Angus Harper's performance against William & Mary back on November 12th as one of top performances in the run game last season. Harper carried the ball 14 times gaining 106 yards and punching in three touchdowns.

Between Angus and Colby, the duo rushed over 1,200 yards during the 2011 campaign, but the Monarchs suffered injuries throughout the season to not only Goodwyn and Harper, but had also lost top running back Mario Crawford during the preseason and then newcomer Tyree Lee late in the year.

"That will be a major focus," said Wilder on the run game. " Our offensive line needs to block better, the passing game is solid based on where we were last year, but we have to get better offensively running the ball."

"We are still aiming high and trying to build upon on top of everything we've done," said running back Colby Goodwyn following Saturday's drills. "After last year, I feel like everyone has a lot more confidence and is on the same page."

Football Monarchs return to the field on Monday morning.