NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Old Dominion began spring practice with a “wide open” quarterback competition, and a lot of inexperience. After watching his team play its spring game last weekend, coach Bobby Wilder feels a little more optimistic heading into the summer offseason program.
“We competed at a high level and the execution was much better on Saturday,” said Wilder, whose team is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 4-8 record in 2018.
The offense will look a little different, and the defense, now under the direction of new defensive coordinator David Blackwell, will look brand new. The biggest question mark is at quarterback. Five gunslingers are on the roster, and “all five of them can play,” Wilder says.
Three are dealing with injury, including Steven Williams, who’s the only quarterback with game experience.
Junior college transfer Messiah DeWeaver and redshirt-freshman Jonah Fitzgerald have been getting all of the 11-on-11 reps in practice. DeWeaver completed 9 of 14 passes for 88 yards, and no touchdowns. Even though he was picked off, he displayed mobility and poise.
“I know all the plays, but it’s more about knowing what we want to do on each play, and matchups right now,” said DeWeaver, who won a national title at East Mississippi Community College last season. “I got a good grasp (of the offense), but I just want to get better through the summertime and heading into fall camp.”
Fitzgerald threw for 180 yards, an interception, and rushed for a score. Stone Smartt is another JuCo transfer, but because he’s dealing with a wrist injury, Wilder is holding off the defensive pass rush while Smartt is in the game.
Not having to face any pressure, Smartt connected on 12 of 18 passes for a 131 yards and two touchdowns. “I think my progress is still there,” said Smartt, who was named the JuCo Player of the Year in California last season. “It’s a little setback not getting the live reps, you always like to have that feel for the pocket, I guess. But in terms of learning everything, I’m right on it.”
Wilder says he won’t know the starter is until “well into preseason (camp).”
The Monarchs have one final scrimmage on Friday before wrapping up the spring. Their home opener, in their newly renovated home stadium, is August 31 against Norfolk State.