Know Your Foe: Q&A With ODU Insider Dave Fairbank
It's been a long season FAU fans but we are here, the last game. The final segment of Know Your Foe. FAU will take on Old Dominion this week to close the season. At 5-6, ODU will be fighting to gain bowl eligibility while FAU will be playing for pride and the right to send out the seniors with a win. Kickoff starts at noon this Saturday.
Special thanks to Dave Fairbank for answering our questions. For more on ODU football you can check out his stuff here Old Dominion - Daily Press and follow him on twitter @FairbankDP. Let's get to it.
Q: In five years since starting the program, Old Dominion has gone 46-14, has made a seamless transition from FCS to FBS, and according to 247Sports, nabbed the second best recruiting class in Conference USA. How has head coach Bobby Wilder built the program from nothing, to potentially nabbing a bowl bid this season?
DF: I wouldn't say that the transition from FCS to FBS has been seamless, but it's a pretty remarkable story. ODU was the most successful start-up in FCS history. Wilder was the longtime offensive coordinator and QB coach at Maine, his alma mater. When he got the ODU job, he spent a couple years researching other start-ups, such as Coastal Carolina and South Florida, to see what worked and what didn't, how to balance recruiting classes, etc. He decided to take advantage of the speed and talent in this area, and the south in general, and run an up-tempo, pass-first offense. Wilder got lucky with his first two quarterbacks - a junior college transfer named Thomas DeMarco and his successor, current QB Taylor Heinicke. Both made the offense go. ODU also has sold out every home game at its 20,000-seat ballyard, and the fan base contributes to a pretty good gameday atmosphere, which helps in recruiting. Wilder also has been able to sell recruits on the idea of being a part of history and taking advantage of a pretty attractive area in which to live and play.
Q: Speaking of bowl game, should the Monarchs beat FAU how do you like their odds of actually getting a bowl bid. At 6-6 last year, FAU failed to get one, despite a four game winning steak to close the season?
DF: I think ODU's bowl chances are pretty slim. As a transition FBS program, it's only bowl eligible if all 76 slots aren't filled. Last I checked, 71 teams already had qualified for bowls. There are 2 games this weekend with five-win teams, where the winner will be bowl eligible - that makes 73. I believe there are another dozen games in which teams can get bowl eligible.
Q: Senior Taylor Heincike has thrown 27 touchdowns this year. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
DF: Heinicke's greatest strength is his ability to read defenses and process information quickly. He goes through his progressions well and is a very accurate passer. He's not particularly big, fast or strong - he's 6-1 and 210 pounds - but he's sneaky athletic and has a sixth sense about avoiding pressure.
Q: ODU averages 32 points per game, which is 41st in the nation. What type of offense does ODU run and who are the key players Owl fans should lookout for?
DF: ODU runs an up-tempo spread offense that features 4 wide receivers. The best of the bunch is senior Antonio Vaughan, who leads C-USA in receiving yards and touchdown catches with 11. He's Heinicke's go-to guy. Freshman running back Ray Lawry is the leading rusher with 734 yards, a 6.7-yard average and 15 touchdowns. When they can run the ball some, it greatly aids their pass game.
Q: Same for the defense. What type of schemes do they run and who are the ballhawks FAU fans should lookout for?
DF: ODU's defense alternates between 3- and 4-man defensive fronts. They often struggle at the point of attack, hence the fact that they give up 223.9 yards per game rushing and 4.8 per carry. Their best defenders are linebackers D.J. Simon, T.J. Ricks and Martez Simpson, and safety Fellonte Misher.
Q: Prediction Time! Its senior day for FAU and with three wins on the season, all they have to play for this week is pride. Meanwhile ODU has the potential to be bowl eligibility in their first opportunity to play in a bowl game. ODU has won two straight nail biters, and with FAU's penchant to play in close games, I see this one being no different? How do you see the game playing?
DF: FAU seems to play much better at home than on the road. I figure it will be close. Just because ODU has a little more incentive, I'll say ODU 34-28.