After an up-and-down season that included the high of upsetting Virginia Tech in Norfolk, and the low of a 42-point loss at Liberty to open the season, the Monarchs will look to replace players on both sides who could be regarded as the best in program history.
On defense, Coach Bobby Wilder and staff must replace a player in Oshane Ximines who could become Old Dominion’s first player drafted in the first round, and is already the first Monarch in program history to be headed to the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Ximines has had a remarkable career at ODU, topped by a senior season that included 12 sacks, good enough for fifth in FBS and 58 tackles overall, along with four forced fumbles. The Ahoskie, North Carolina, product also recently made Conference USA First-Team for the second straight season.
Ximines will leave ODU holding multiple team records, including the record for most career sacks (33), most career tackles for loss (51.5), and forced fumbles (11).
On offense, Jonathan Duhart rebounded after a season-ending injury in 2017 with a very good 2018, including catching nine balls for 142 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Virginia Tech. Duhart also made Conference USA Second-Team.
In his career, Duhart amassed 2,644 yards on 183 receptions with 28 touchdowns for the after entering the ODU football program as a two-star recruit.
Joining Ximines in the Senior Bowl will be ODU’s first offensive pick for the Senior Bowl, WR Travis Fulgham. In 2014, Fulgham came to Norfolk from Broad Run High School (Ashburn, VA) as a walk-on but earned a scholarship after a strong fall camp.
Fulgham had his most prolific season in his senior season, going over 1,000 yards receiving for the only time in his career, earning him Second-Team All Conference-USA honors. In his senior season, Fulgham accounted for twice as many receptions (69) as he had in any season prior and joined Duhart with over 100 yards (188) vs Virginia Tech.
Replacing three studs won’t be an easy task but ODU has a few options. Kesean Strong is the player returning to the Monarchs with the highest stats in 2018. The redshirt junior from Oxon Hill, Maryland, had 21 receptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns in 2018, while also rushing for 499 yards and nine touchdowns. Next to Strong will be Hasaan Patterson, a Junior from Atlanta, Georgia, who accounted for two touchdowns in 2018.
On defense, Marcus Haynes will return as a redshirt sophomore after recording two sacks in 12 games in 2018. Joining Haynes will be James Valle III, a redshirt freshman who recorded one sack in six games for the Monarchs in 2018.
At press time, ODU has recruited Jorell Baum, a three-star weak-side defensive end from Northeastern High School (Elizabeth City, North Carolina) and Elonte Jones, also a three-star weak-side defensive end from Brookville High School (Lynchburg, Virginia) and three-star receiver Braxton Collins from Greer High School (Greer, South Carolina) to try to fill the holes left by the trio of Ximines, Duhart, and Fulgham.
Collins is excited for the task of trying to fill the holes of Duhart and Fulgham, however.
“I feel great knowing ODU has a good reputation from the WR core! In the next 4 years I wanna do everything I can as a WR to help the team win games,” Collins said.
ODU has some work to do on the recruiting path. According to 247 Sports, the Monarchs currently have the fifth best recruiting class in C-USA with seven three-star commits. It will be interesting to see who emerges as the new go-to players at defensive end and wide receiver when spring practice begins.