NORFOLK, Va. — It's been a while since Old Dominion entered a fall camp with some continuity. From a cancelled season in 2020 to Ricky Rahne's first season as a head coach in 2021, with a handful of young rosters in between, the Monarchs have seen a lot of turnover recently.
2022 appears to bring stability. The offense returns almost fully intact, the defense brings back 7 starters and Rahne follows up a 5-1 late season charge with year 2 of his head coaching career.
"I guess I feel a little bit more comfortable," said Rahne after practice number one, before quickly pausing to qualify that comfort. "I think there's so many things that are always changing, there's things we have to adapt to all the time. That's one of the things that's great about my job, I always have something new and exciting, a new challenge I have to approach. If I ever get comfortable I'd probably retire."
Rahne may resist the feeling of comfort, but what about his program? With more experience on the roster and last season's late surge, it's easy to see how a new culture may have carried over.
Not so fast, says Rahne, "We're gonna start from ground zero every single year. We've got too many new pieces. In the way of college football nowadays, with the freshman, transfer portal, that sort of thing, you have to build from the ground up, the culture from the ground up." Rahne does say that the roster experience will help with the annual rebuild, "One thing you do have is you have some guys that can help in those sort of things. There's a few more coaches on the field, those guys can help out a little bit."
That rebuilt culture will be dedicated towards winning a new conference. The Monarchs moved from Conference USA to the Sun Belt. With the move comes a new schedule that is brutal on paper, but day 1 of training camp is no time to worry about that. Cornerback Tre Hawkins isn't looking past week 1, "Right now we're just focused on Virginia Tech right now, we're trying to focus on going 1-0. We understand the schedule, but we're just focused on Virginia Tech, take every game one by one," says Hawkins.
Meanwhile, offensive lineman Nick Saldiveri isn't looking past lunch. "I just got done with practice today, I gotta go 1-0 at lunch right now."
Can't skip any steps when rebuilding the culture, even when you've finally got a little experience.