Bobby Wilder Weekly Press Conference
By ODU Athletics
NORFOLK, Va. - Old Dominion University Head Coach Bobby Wilder held is final press conference of the year on Monday. Below is a transcription from the press conference.
Good afternoon everybody, and good afternoon to our 12th Monarchs out there in Monarch Nation coming off an 80-20 loss vs. North Carolina. That puts our final record at 8-4. I’d like to start by personally thanking the estimated 5,000 fans that traveled with us to North Carolina. Myself and everyone in our program talked about this yesterday in our team meeting, about how grateful we are for the unbelievable support we have had not only at the North Carolina game, but all season long. Thank you very much to our 12th Monarchs. My biggest concern going into this game was that we would be physically over-matched by North Carolina. Going down there we had 25 players injured going into this game, and five starters that were out for the season. The question was could we hold up for four quarters in this football game against a very good North Carolina team. After the first quarter I felt really good about it. It was a 14-13 score, we had sustained a couple of drives and we made some things happen on special teams, with the onside kick and the muffed punt that we had punted out of an offense formation. They muffed the punt that Taylor kicked, so I felt good about it at that point. But from that point on, everything just unraveled for our football team.
From a special teams stand point, the good news was that we recovered an onside kick early and had excellent execution on that, and we got the muffed punt. The bad news was we allowed two returns for scores. They had a punt return and a kickoff return. That was something we just could not allow to happen in this game. Defensively, we were just to physically beat up to sustain anything versus North Carolina. We had one stop early in the first quarter, but after that we were just over matched at every position. We just could not come up with stops or turnovers. That’s something we needed in this game, was turnovers from North Carolina. A credit to them, they did not turn the ball over and they simply overwhelmed us for the last three quarters with their size, their speed, and their execution. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to those kids especially Marquise Williams at quarterback who I thought played a near flawless game. He was perfect on his deep throws. A lot of credit goes to them as well.
Offensively the story for us was that we were 1-of-15 on third and fourth down. We knew going into this game we were going to have to sustain drives in this football game. Something we had done against East Carolina. Something we had done against Pittsburgh which was to sustain drives and keep our defense off the field as much as possible. We got into a stretch in the third or fourth quarter where we were consistently three and out, and you can’t do that when we were already outmatched on defense and depleted with depth. We needed to be able to get our defense off the field. We just simply did not execute the way we needed to. The one bright spot for us offensively was the running of Gerard Johnson. He had nine carries in this game for 144 yards. He also had an 81 yard run, which was great to see. I was really excited about that performance from our true freshman in this football game. I look ahead and look forward on this and our future looks really bright. I’m really excited about the future of this program. I consider 2013, regardless of what happened Saturday, to be a great success for this program. The fact that we went 8-4, the fact that we were 6-0, our first undefeated at home in our fifth year as a program, and the fact that we got our first FBS win this year.
I’m really excited about the accomplishments of this football team. I also feel we improved as a football program. When I look back to the fact we brought in 14 new players in January. We brought in 35 new players in July. We had 49 new players in this program out of the 90 that are on the roster. Everything that those kids had to learn, everything those kids had to accomplish, from our aim high philosophy about being a great person, a great student, and how to be a great football player, there was so much that was thrown at them in rapid fashion. For us to be able to have that kind of success, really gets me excited about the future. This season felt like 2009 in terms of all the newness, and with all the players coming in. Obviously the challenge this year was greater with the schedule than 2009, but I’m really excited about the improvement we’ve made. We currently have 90 guys on the roster and 68 of those 90 played this year. We were able to redshirt 22 players, which is absolutely critical to the development of this program. The fact that those players were involved in everything this season, every practice, every game plan meeting, four day workout plan with coach Makovec and Martin, and those players have taken tremendous strides. So to be able to redshirt that many players is critical to the development of this program. 79 players out of the 90 return in 2014. That’s the most we’ve ever had. 79 players that went through everything they went through this year, coming back next year has me excited. We have eight out of eleven starters returning on offense. We’ll have ten out of eleven starters on defense. We get two of our three specialists back. We lose Jarod Brown, an outstanding player, but we were able to redshirt Ricky Segers, who is also an outstanding kicker. So I feel really good about our kicking game going into next year. On our roster 57 of our players earned playing time in 2013. That’s a big number, to have 57 players come back who played this year, and played at this level of competition, playing those five FBS games on the road, that gets me really excited.
2013 was definitely a youth movement for this football program. We had 13 true freshmen that played this year. Out of those 13 true freshmen, seven of them started at some point during the season. We also had 11 redshirt freshmen that played this year. Three of them started at some point during the season. Then we had nine junior college players who were also brand new players to our program that played this year. So we had 33 players that played for the first time ever in a college football game here at Old Dominion. When you talk about that process of winning, and developing your football team, it’s critical for us that those 33 players were able to play this year. We also have our largest senior class we’ve ever had. We will have 23 seniors in this class, and when you look and see that we are going into our sixth year as a program with 23 players like Taylor Heinicke in the class. When I look at this class, every one of those players is a performer for us. Almost every one of those guys has developed throughout this program, and that’s great from a head coaching standpoint when that type of leadership not only on the field, but to have that kind of leadership off the field, being able to sit the tone in the community, on campus with everything those guys do has everybody excited.
Lastly our 2014 conference USA approach, as you can see I have listed all of the teams that are supposed to be in conference USA. I have all the teams listed alphabetically and at the bottom I have Old Dominion. I told our players yesterday in the team meeting, we have to work our way from the bottom to the top. This has me excited and our entire program excited. We are out of this transition season and all the challenges that went with it. Now we can look ahead to being in a conference and having that ability to earn our way from the bottom to the top. Not unlike the approach we took in 2011 when we joined the CAA. We had that same mindset and same approach. We have to earn our way from the bottom to the top, and that will be the goal of this program in the off-season.
Was the game a guide to where the program is, and where it needs to be?
I don’t think its Saturday, I think it’s the whole body of work; all 12 games in the season. We were a depleted team and the outcome didn’t come out very well. But in terms of what I look at this program is the full body of work. I’m really excited at the fact that we ended the season 8-4
Was there Progress this season?
I feel like in the whole body of work it was progress. Certainly it didn’t look like that on Saturday. I can’t stand up here in front of you after we just got beat 80-20 in a game that requested to be shortened, that that looks like progress. But when I step back, and I had an opportunity Sunday morning to look at the program and where we are, I feel like we made tremendous progress as a program. I feel like in a lot of ways, and it was very challenging for our players just how everything unfolded for those seniors. Those eleven guys went from competing for championships, to basically just elevating the program. That’s what it came to for those guys trying to help the program keep rolling. I do feel like we made tremendous progress this year when you look at the full body of the season, and I feel like that sets us up well for our future.
How did the team react to the loss?
They were extremely disappointed Saturday. Everyone of us in the program was embarrassed, disappointed, frustrated, with the outcome and that’s the way it should be. If you are a competitive person and you go through a situation like we did on Saturday, every fiber of your being should be disappointed. The one thing that I really like about this team is I like their resolve. I like their resolve overall as a program. I talked to them about the game, the season the decision I made to request shortening the game. I addressed that with the players. I always want them to hear everything from me. One of my goals I have as a head coach is to try and teach leadership. And I try and teach the players that leadership isn’t always easy. Things don’t always go well when you’re a leader, and you’ve got to be confident, you’ve got to stand up and address whatever happens after that. That’s something I try to teach our players about everything that went into that. I showed them next year. I showed them the 2014 non-conference schedule . I would have liked to have shown them the C-USA schedule for next year, but I don’t think we get that until February. They’re all excited about that. Their disappointed about Saturday, but their excited about the future and their excited about what we’re building.
What’s the focus on recruiting and development now?
From a recruiting standpoint, we are still at the point where it has to be at every position. We have to continue to recruit at every position. I say that because we’re still transitioning. We’ve got one class in that was recruited as an FBS class. This will be our second class that comes in as a FBS class. There are immediate needs at every position and we’ve got to keep building at every position. That’s absolutely critical that we continue to keep building at every position, because it’s only our second FBS recruiting class. We are currently not at the 85 scholarships. The goal is to have 85 scholarship players next year.
How many committed players would you like to sign on signing day?
I don’t have a number right now in my head because there are so many other factors that go into the class, scholarships, and the current team. I’m in the process right now of meeting with all of our players and coaches and going through this evaluation process that we give every year at the end of the year. Right now if you walk up and down the hall there are coaches in there meeting all of the players. What I ask my coaches to do, is meet with all 79 of those returning players, tell them exactly where they are right now, and tell them where they need to get to in nine months to compete for a championship. There is a lot of the evaluation part that is still going on. What I do know, is that we need to bring in another class like last year. We need to continue to out recruit ourselves because of this transition we’re going through. We’ve got to keep getting better because of the level of competition. Next year it’s not going to be five FBS teams, its going to be eleven FBS teams and that’s why we have to continue to raise the bar in recruiting. I’m on a plane next Sunday. As soon as I can get out I get out and we have to go attack them aggressively so we can hold on to these guys we have committed. As you know, that’s a challenge and we are going to continue to improve.
Are you satisfied with where the defense is at?
First of all, I met with coach Nagy yesterday. I felt like at times this year we were limited to how much we could do. Schematically, you can only do as much as the players can handle. And we were just really trying to get ourselves better each week, as much as we could. We were very limited schematically and that’s what we are changing next year. We are already talking about packages that we’re going to add, because we got experience and some different things we are going to do. Everything is on the table. We’ll go back to what we try to do philosophically, which is play to our strengths to the players we have at certain positions. So we’re looking at a 3-4 or a 4-3. We’re talking about nickel and dime packages and blitz packages. We’ll analyze that based on who we currently have for players and who comes in the recruiting class. There is no question we have to recruit and get better on that side of the ball.
Thank you all for coming. Thank you again 12th Monarchs for an outstanding season and we look forward to seeing you next year