Head coach Ricky Rahne conducts Old Dominion’s first football practice of the spring on Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium in Norfolk on Tuesday. (Kendall Warner/The Virginian-Pilot)
NORFOLK — Among the tweaks Ricky Rahne has made within his program since last season is the least subtle one of all, and he hopes it contributes to a tick upward in player comfort and team unity.
After his second season on the sideline at Old Dominion, which ended with an unsightly 3-9 record, Rahne completely rearranged his office in a manner designed keep the door open and encourage his players to duck in and say hi.
“It’s literally the exact opposite of what it was,” Rhane said.
“It had nothing to do with Feng-shui; it had to do with functionality.”
The same can be said of other changes within the program.
When the Monarchs began spring practice Tuesday afternoon at chilly S.B. Ballard Stadium, they did so with a handful of new policies designed to bring them closer together while becoming a better and more cohesive team.
Players no longer sit in team meetings exclusively with their position groups, a move designed to help players from across the team get to know each other.
Offseason minicamps allowed players to compete against more people than they had in the past.
The tweaks, the players believe, are working.
“We’re closer,” said junior wide receiver Javon Harvey, a former star at Lake Taylor High in Norfolk.
“I feel like we’re a closed fist, and not an open fist.”
A player runs through an offensive drill during Old Dominion’s first football practice of the season on Kornblau Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium in Norfolk, Va. on Tuesday, March 14, 2023. (Kendall Warner/The Virginian-Pilot)
Still, it’s only spring, which means there’s no such thing as job security.
Even All-American linebacker Jason Henderson, who led the nation in tackles last season, will have to look over his shoulder. But Rahne said he’s always practiced and played like he was.
“I think you’re always earning your job,” Rahne said. “Are there people with probably a leg up? Yeah. I think a guy like Jason Henderson and the production that he’s had is certainly going to give him a little bit more leeway. The thing is, though, about guys like that is the reason they’ve had so much production is because they refuse to use that leeway.”
One thing they are using is last season. The Monarchs started off with a 3-3 record, including a 49-21 win at Coastal Carolina, before ending 2022 with six straight losses.
The memories of that long skid have manifested during workouts.
“You can say you moved on, but you keep a little bit in the back of your mind,” said junior defensive tackle Alonzo Ford. “You’re in sprints and things like that [and] you see a guy maybe slacking a little bit, coming behind a little bit. You’re like, ‘Hey, come on. Pick it up. You know what happened last year. You don’t want those same results.’ ”
Rahne, a former Penn State offensive coordinator who took ODU to the Myrtle Beach Bowl in 2021 after his first season on the job was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is working to avoid another disappointing season one minor tweak at a time.
By the time the Monarchs open Sept. 2 at Virginia Tech against a team they upset in last season’s opener, Rahne hopes his changes will have the nexus in place team-wide.
Even where a desk sits in the spring can affect what happens in the fall.
“They’re not changed willy-nilly,” Rahne said. “They’re changed for good reasons.
“We’re not changing the main tenets of what we do. I’m always going to be looking for new and better ways to accomplish things and to encourage the things that I want done.”
Wire services are provided under license from Newswires (EIN).