It’s officially game week! To kick off our coverage of Saturday’s game against Old Dominion, we talked with Ed Miller of the Virginian-Pilot to get his take on this weekend’s game.
ASOR: How does the ODU community view this game? Is it viewed as a must win? Not just for a successful season but to prove their positioning in the Commonwealth?
Ed Miller: Fans are excited. Liberty is viewed as a program on the rise, especially with all the resources the school is pouring into football. It’s certainly not a game anyone is taking for granted, particularly since ODU will be on the road against a team sure to be fired up to make its FBS debut. It wasn’t that long ago that ODU moved up, so everyone here can certainly relate. I don’t know if it’s considered a must-win, but it’s an important game, and a good measuring stick for a team coming off a disappointing season.
ASOR: We’ve read a lot about Elijah Davis during camp, with Liberty being in his final 3 schools and him being from Lynchburg, the Liberty fans are interested in how he does. Will he travel with the team to Lynchburg? Will he factor into the running back rotation this season?
EM: Lala Davis, as he now wants to be known, has had a solid camp, and I have no doubt he’ll be in the mix this year, particularly with the new redshirt rule that allows freshmen to play four games. As of this writing (Thursday afternoon) I don’t know if he’s made the travel squad, but if I had to guess, I’d say he will. The competition to be the running mate to Jeremy Cox at RB has been pretty intense. Lala has the physical tools to play immediately, accordingto coaches. It’s just a question of how quickly he gets up to speed with everything that comes with being a college back.
ASOR: It’s no secret that Liberty struggled to stop the run last year, with standout running back Jeremy Cox, should we expect the Monarchs to feed him the ball all evening until the Flames prove they can stop him?
EM: ODU wants to run the ball regardless, and has made establishing a power rushing game the foundation upon which everything else will be built. Being a downhill team will take pressure off QB Steven WIlliams, who is still just 18 years old, and create favorable matchups on the outside for WRs like Jonathan Duhart and Isaiah Harper. The offensive line returns five players with starting experience, and the plan is to use TEs more this season. Williams is also a mobile QB, so look for some planned runs for him as well.
ASOR: We’ve heard a lot about ODU’s defensive line, how good can they be? Is it the best position group on the team?
EM: The DL is definitely the deepest and most talented group on the team. DE Oshane Ximines was an all-CUSA pick who had 8.5 sacks last year and has a good chance of becoming the first player in program history to be drafted. DT Miles Fox is also really good, and the other starters are seniors also. There’s not much drop-off when the second team DL subs in, so the Monarchs are able to keep fresh players on the field at all times. This group should really be able to get after the QB, and will be solid vs. the run too.
ASOR: What is the general sentiment among the ODU faithful regarding the future of a series with Liberty? Is Liberty viewed as a future rival?
EM: Yes, absolutely. Since Conference USA is so spread out, coach Bobby Wilder wants to establish regional rivalries out of conference. Liberty definitely is one of the schools ODU is excited about playing. It’s a driveable game for fans in a league in which few games are. Charlotte, 5 hours away, is the closest geographic rival in the league. Next is Marshall, which is about 8 hours away. So it’s hard for fans to get to road games.
Thank you Ed for joining us. Liberty fans, be sure to give him a follow on twitter @edmillervp and read his coverage of the game.