Minium: It's Difficult to Praise Your Son When he Plays for You, so I Prodded Bobby Wilder to talk about Derek Wilder
By ODU Athletics
By Harry Minium
Dads love to praise their sons and daughters, even fathers who are football coaches. But it's difficult for Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder to brag about his son, Derek Wilder, a defensive end for the Monarchs because some might view it as favoritism.
So I prodded Wilder at his weekly press conference to speak about Derek, who has very quietly had a very productive season for the Monarchs.
Derek wasn’t all that highly recruited out of Maury High School, and has been slowed by injuries much of his career. But he’s turned into one of ODU’s best defensive players as a senior.
Wilder went from linebacker to defensive end late last summer and has been forced to play a lot of downs at defensive tackle the last two games with Jeremy Meiser and Juwan Ross out with injuries.
At 6-foot-1, 265 pounds, he’s undersized to play tackle and just big enough to be an effective defensive end. Yet he’s third on the team in tackles for a loss with five, with four coming in the last two games. He’s sixth on the team with 30 tackles, and again, he’s played his best football in recent games – with 11 in the last three games, including three sacks.
Derek is also excelling in the classroom. He already has a bachelor and master’s degree and is working on a second master’s. He has consistently been an honor roll student.
“He’s been playing really good football,” Bobby said. “He’s probably 40 pounds too light to play nose guard, which he’s had to play some because of injuries.
“But Derek is seeing the rewards from the work he’s put in. He’s finally as close to healthy as he can be.”
A few hours before Bobby’s press conference, he said he announced to the team “that Derek has earned the right to be a permanent captain along with Keion White.”
White is ODU’s best defensive player. They join linebacker Lawrence Garner, ODU’s leading tackler, and Isaac Weaver, the Monarchs’ best offensive lineman, as permanent captains for ODU’s final two games.
“A lot of it has to do with how they’ve performed on the field, but also what they’re doing off the field with the players, particularly the younger players,” Bobby said.
"I'm proud of Derek as his coach and proud of him as his dad."
All Conference USA teams wearing green laces to promote mental wellness
If you have a sharp eye, perhaps you noticed the green shoelaces the ODU football team wore last weekend against Texas-San Antonio.
The green shoelaces and accompanying wrist bands are part of Conference USA's Mental Wellness Initiative. C-USA provided the shoelaces and wrist bands that every league sports team could have a "Green Out" day.
The numbers of college students enrolling in college with mental health issues has been steadily rising, and athletes, who work long hours in their sports, in addition to going to class, aren't immune from needing help.
Wearing green is designed to promote all students, but especially athletes, to get help if they need it.
The program was suggested by the C-USA Student-Athlete Administration, a group of athletes who advise conference officials on student issues. Football player Mufu Taiwo and swim and dive team member Amanda Caruso serve on the C-USA SAAC group.
Green Out days set so for for this winter include men's basketball, on Feb. 6, against Texas-San Antonio and women's basketball on Feb. 13 against Rice.
Conference USA improving its image after a poor start
Conference USA began the season with a ho-hum football record against non-conference opponents, but that record has begun to improve in recent weeks.
Western Kentucky absolutely crushed Arkansas, 45-19, on Saturday and that was after losing to FCS member Central Arkansas, 35-28 in its opener. The Hilltoppers also notched a nice, 17-8, non-conference victory over Army four weeks ago.
The victory over Arkansas was the first this season for C-USA in 20 tries against Power 5 teams.
C-USA is generally ranked ninth among the ten FBS conferences in total overall rankings, well ahead of the Mid American Conference and close behind the Sun Belt.
Appalachian State has probably been the difference for the Sun Belt between eight place and ninth. Appalachian has beaten both North Carolina and South Carolina on the road. The Sun Belt has four wins over Power 5 schools. The Mountain West, generally ranked seventh, is 9-9 against Power 5 schools.
Louisiana Tech (8-1), whose only loss this season was at No. 10 Texas in its season opener, is receiving votes in all of the top 25 polls, and if the Bulldogs keep winning, they’ll eventually crack the polls. Tech was 30th in voting for the Associated Press poll and 28th in the coaches’ poll. Tech is ranked 25th in USA Today’s power ranking.
LA Tech plays at Marshall Friday night in a game that could decide the East Division championship. Marshall (4-1 C-USA, 6-3 overall) trails Florida Atlantic (5-1, 7-3), but the Herd has beaten FAU and thus wins a tiebreaker if each team finishes 7-1.
LA Tech would have to lose two of its final three games in order to allow Southern Miss to win the West Division.
The Marshall-LaTech kickoff is set for 8 p.m. Friday on the CBS Sports Network. Some added motivation for the Herd is that this game is the annual memorial game for the Marshall football team killed in the 1970 plane crash.
Conference USA will fill its bowl slots, and then some
C-USA is guaranteed six blow slots every season, but given the relative parity in to top half of each division, the league could end up with a record eight bowl teams.
In addition to the six guaranteed bowls, the league has also secondary agreements with three other bowls that will be available if Power 5 conferences don’t fill all of their slots. And that appears likely to happen in two or three bowl games.
Jeff Palm of the CBS Sports Network has eight C-USA teams in bowl games, including what could be an intriguing meeting between North Carolina and Charlotte in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
However, I’m not sure eight will qualify, including Charlotte.
FAU (7-3) and Louisiana Tech (8-1) are already guaranteed bowl games. Marshall (6-3), WKU (6-4), Southern Miss (6-3) and UAB (6-3) are all bowl eligible and given their schedules, it appears likely all four will also get that seventh victory that guarantees a bid.
Still in the running are Charlotte (5-5), UTSA (4-5), North Texas (4-6), FIU (5-5) and Middle Tennessee (3-6).
Charlotte must defeat Marshall and ODU to be guaranteed a bid and must win one game of the two to become bowl eligible. Marshall will be difficult to beat, as will ODU in its final home game, especially after the Monarchs lost a heartbreaker last year in the Queen City.
North Texas, the league’s biggest disappointment this season, must win at Rice and then at home against UAB, and while that’s certainly possible, my money is on the Blazers.
Three other teams have uphill roads to bowl eligibility – FIU (must win against Miami or Marshall), MTSU (must sweep games against Rice, ODU and WKU) and UTSA (plays a murderer’s row of Southern Miss, FAU and LaTech).
Regardless, it’s clear that Conference USA continues its tradition of having a good bowl lineup in some great cities. Palm has teams playing in Dallas and Frisco, Texas; Tampa and Boca Raton, Fla.; Nassau in the Bahamas; New Orleans., La. and Albuquerque, New Mexico, in addition to Shreveport.
Contact Minium: email@example.com