Monday, August 15, 2011

Richmond University Football Preview

So far we've reviewed the first nine opponents of Old Dominion University's 2011 football season.  There is no scheduled bye week until the final week of the regular season.  By the time the Monarchs close out their home schedule against the University of Richmond, they will have played CAA opponents in six consecutive weeks (and opponents in nine straight weeks overall).  It's natural to expect that injuries will have taken their toll on this ODU squad by this point; no matter their record by November 5, they'll be a bit beaten up.

With that said, Richmond is Old Dominion's opponent on its Senior Night.  Players such as team leaders Thomas DeMarco and Ronnie Cameron will be given a proper send-off by an ODU crowd that truly appreciates what they've done for the program.  But I'll preview ODU soon enough; for now, bring on the Ticks!

Football History
The University of Richmond was founded in 1830, the oldest CAA Football institution of higher learning we've previewed to date.  Since starting football in 1881, the Spiders have attained an overall record of 497-609-53.  With so many more years than most opponents ODU will face, they've had a share in at least 13 conference championships.  They've had their share of recent success, making the FCS semifinals in 2007 and winning the FCS national title in 2008.  Richmond had played its home football games at City Stadium through 2009; they had built and moved into Robins Stadium in 2010.

Robins Stadium, the current home of the University of Richmond football team (photo credited to Richmond - The Alumni Magazine).

2010 Highlights
After head coach Mike London departed Richmond to coach at the University of Virginia, expectations were still reasonably high for 2010.  It took about a week for UR to replace London with Latrell Scott, who had served previously as the Spiders' WR coach.  The offense was expected to get a boost with Aaron Corp at quarterback; Corp was transfering in from the University of Southern California after two seasons.  The defense was also returning a significant amount of talent.

City Stadium in Richmond (photo credited to the Richmond Times-Dispatch).  I can't believe a Division I football program played its games at this dilapidated venue prior to 2010.

Unfortunately Corp suffered a knee injury in the Spiders' fifth game of the season against New Hampshire, and his season was done.  Richmond finished 2-2 in the four games Corp started, and 4-3 other games.  The offense finished tied for last in the conference in points scored at 15.5 points/game.  Leading rusher Tyler Kirchoff was tenth in the conference with 547 rushing yards, while All-CAA First Team WR led UR receivers with 38 catches/478 yards receiving.

The defense had its own share of standouts, but collectively it wasn't good enough to overcome a deficient offense.  Three Spiders were named All-CAA First Team - DT Martin Parker, LB Eric McBridge and CB Justin Rogers.  Rogers was drafted in the seventh round by the Buffalo Bills; five bucks says he ends his pro career with more sacks than Aaron Maybin

Justin Rogers was a leader on the Spiders 2010 defense.  (Photo credited to

When it was all said and done, the Spiders offense simply couldn't score enough points.  Losing a BCS-level talent at QB was too much for a talented defense to overcome.  As such, despite wins over UMass and JMU, the team finished only 6-5.

History with Old Dominion Football
This will be the first meeting on the football field between Richmond and Old Dominion

Kent Bazemore had a coming-of-age game against Richmond in 2010.  This image is pretty bad-ass. (Photo credited to Preston Gannaway, The Virginian-Pilot)
2011 Outlook
The defense loses six starters to graduation, including the three First Teamers discussed above.  I've mentioned this in a preview of Hampton University, but it's hard to lose six starters (three of which were all-conference members) and actually improve on defense.  There were no Spiders on the 2011 preseason All-CAA team on defense.

The offense, however, should show a marked improvement over the 2010's results.  Four offensive linemen who started a significant portion of 2010 return; even though leading-rusher Kirchoff is lost to graduation, you should expect the offensive line to open up holes for players like Kendall Gaskins and Jovan Smith.  If Aaron Corp stays healthy in 2011 then he's an automatic upgrade over the collective 2010 unit.  Tre Gray returns as a preseason All-CAA WR.

The difficult schedule may do more harm to Richmond's success than anything they can control.  The Spiders play at JMU, at Delaware, host William and Mary and New Hampshire.  Those are four games against teams that look better than Richmond heading into 2011.  With little room for error, they can't go 0-4 against those teams and also suffer an expected loss to a team like Maine or UMass.  Despite the return of eight players on offense, I think the defense loses too much to allow the Spiders to improve on their 2010 record of 6-5.

Discounting the impact of freshmen players may have, it could be a frustrating season for Richmond.  If Aaron Corp stays healthy then he could be the driving force behind a return to the playoffs for the Spiders.  But does the defense lose too much for Richmond to remain competitive?  At best this team goes 7-4, which in the CAA is good enough for the playoffs, but it's hard to pick them to do better with what they lose on defense.

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