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ODU’s Ricky Rahne knows how to coach. He’s still figuring out where to do it.

Virginian-Pilot
Virginian-Pilot
 27 days ago

Three games into his career as a head coach, not much has surprised Ricky Rahne.

But after years of watching games from the press box, the Old Dominion coach still isn’t quite sure what to do with himself during games.

When the Monarchs take on Buffalo (1-2) at S.B. Ballard Stadium on Saturday, Rahne will continue to tweak his location at any given moment.

“Where to stand so that I can still be a major impact and see the game and still be a major impact from an X’s and O’s perspective, but not be away from everybody so that I can still be managing personalities, managing the officials — those sort of things,” said Rahne, who came to ODU after a six-year stint at Penn State, including two as offensive coordinator. “So that’s still something that I’m working on and I’m going to continue to work on: Where is the best place for me to be at that moment?”

Rahne, a college coach since 2004 and a quarterback at Cornell before that, has spent eight of his past nine seasons coaching from above, the lone exception being his second year at Penn State.

Before the season, Rahne joked that his “biggest fear” was being run over on the sideline. That hasn’t happened yet, but other concerns remain.

In the Monarchs’ opener at Wake Forest, a 42-10 loss , the fiery Rahne was purposefully subdued on the sideline out of fear that his players wouldn’t respond well to any outbursts.

He loosened up during a 47-7 win over Hampton a week later and remained heated during last week’s 45-17 loss at Liberty .

Rahne, 41, has already learned that team identities are fluid from season to season.

“We’ll probably have a team someday that doesn’t respond as well when I’m being passionate and things like that, and at that point I need to adjust,” he said. “But this team responds better when I am showing emotion and things like that, and so I’ve got to understand that.”

Sophomore tight end Zack Kuntz, a Pennsylvania native who followed Rahne from Penn State, surveyed Liberty’s top-tier facilities — including a $29 million, state-of-the-art indoor practice area — last week in Lynchburg and concluded that, “Forty-five pounds weighs the same here as it does anywhere else.”

This week, Kuntz clarified by expressing his appreciation for Rahne and his staff.

“You can have the nicest facilities in the country,” Kuntz said. “But if your coaches don’t care about you, then how good can it really be?”

Junior safety R.T. Johnson, when asked about Rahne, gave a ringing endorsement.

“He’s a good man, an even better coach,” Johnson said. “I’m happy to be one of his players.”

Despite his relative inexperience, Rahne hasn’t leaned on outside coaching mentors for advice. Instead, he’s relied upon his staff; even if it’s the youngest in the country, it still knows ODU’s players best.

Rahne is still coming to terms with a part of being a head coach that he knew would be a demand, even during those years way up in the press box.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say I haven’t expected it, but it’s my job to make sure that the mentality of the team is going in the same direction the whole time, while my expertise is probably in the X’s and O’s,” Rahne said. “So managing that yin and that yang there is probably the biggest thing that I’m still getting used to.”

One thing Rahne learned long before arriving in Norfolk was the value of owning a mistake. It’s a lesson he said goes well beyond football.

“You can ask my wife: I’ll say when I’m wrong,” Rahne said. “She doesn’t like to admit that I admit that I’m wrong, but I do. That’s a little pro tip for everybody: You need to, in a marriage, say it when you’re wrong. Don’t ever say when you’re right.”

David Hall, david.hall@pilotonline.com

Buffalo (1-2) at Old Dominion (1-2), 6 p.m.

On the air: ESPN+, 94.1FM, 820AM

The Bulls: Buffalo, which plays in the Mid-American Conference, won big over Wagner, got crushed at Nebraska and, last week, surprised many by falling 28-25 at No. 16 Coastal Carolina. The Bulls use an effective three-man committee at running back, including a former star at Norfolk’s Norview High in Kevin Marks. The players have combined for 581 yards and seven TDs. Buffalo hasn’t allowed a sack all season, a sign of a strong, cohesive offensive line.

The Monarchs: When ODU’s offense is clicking, it can move the ball effectively. It simply needs to click more consistently. Senior QB D.J. Mack — a teammate of Marks’ at Norview — was briefly sharp in last week’s loss at Liberty, but he sometimes held the ball too long, leading to five sacks. Playing in “Hudson Blue” uniforms for the first time, the Monarchs will have to win at the line of scrimmage to have a chance.

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