Non-Conference Preview, Part 2

This is the second in a four part preseason tour of the non-conference opponets. I'll continue my with a look at the Division I-AA Villanova Wildcats. I'll review lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits.


Villanova (6-5, 3-5 Atlantic 10) stumbled to an atypically mediocre season last year.  The Wildcats, expected to contend for the Atlantic 10 title, simply could not beat the upper echelon teams in either the North or South divisions of the conference.  Villanova slumped to its worst record since 2000 under 21-year Head Coach Andy Talley.  Under Talley, Villanova has historically been a Division I-AA offensive juggernaut with a suspect defense yielding points and yardage almost as prolifically as the offense earns them.  Not so last year, as the offense was mediocre and the defense was the better unit.  

Villanova was picked to again finish fourth in the South Division of the Atlantic 10 – behind Delaware, James Madison, and William & Mary – in a preseason poll of the coaches and media.  Talley returns 13 starters, plus "both" kickers, from a middle of the pack Atlantic 10 team.  As a Division I-AA program, Villanova is limited to only 65 scholarship players.  This means that Villanova's depth chart is not even two deep in some places, as reserves often backup two positions.  Talley's roster includes only 24 returning lettermen, which provides an indication of the limited extent of the playing roster.  Here's a look at the middling Villanova Wildcats. 


Villanova lost only four starters from an unusually mediocre Wildcat offense.  Villanova employs a spread offense that will feature 3WR, 4WR, and 5WR formations as well as 2RB and 2TE sets.  Talley has shown the versatility to tailor his offense to the talent of his players.  In recent years, he has relied more heavily upon two 2RB sets.  That could change in 2004.  Villanova's 2004 offensive statistics are summarized below:

  • 134 rushing yards per game (#75 of 117 in Division 1-AA)
  • 234 passing yards per game (#32 in Division 1-AA)
  • 368 yards per game (#53 in Division 1-AA)
  • 30 points per game (#32 in Division 1-AA)

Villanova lost starting TE Anthony Wright (18 receptions for 230 yards and one TD) and backup WR Noble Champen (16 receptions for 189 yards), who missed the final five games month with a leg injury, and backup WR Curtis Waltman (6 receptions for 95 yards and 2 TDs), who replaced Champen but still had a year of eligibility.  Two-year starter and two-time All-Atlantic 10 (First Team in 2003, Third Team last year) Sr WR J.J. Outlaw (57 receptions for 686 yards and 7 TDs plus 28 carries for 204 yards and one TD) and starting WR RS Sr John Dieser (38 receptions for 468 yards and 3 TDs) both return to anchor the receiving corps.  Former backup TE RS So Matt Sherry (8 receptions for 74 yards) will replace Wright in the starting lineup; RS Fr Michael Bradway will backup Sherry.  Villanova uses 3WR formations frequently in their spread offense.  RS Jr WR Chris Polite (17 receptions for 241 yards and 2 TDs) will be the 3WR and the primary backup WR.  RS So Anton Ridley will likely be the other backup WR.  Villanova will spread the ball around to many different receivers but Outlaw and Dieser will carry the load.  Outlaw will also see the ball on reverses. 

Last year, RS Jr QB Marvin Burroughs (209 of 334 for 2,486 yards, 20 TDs, and 12 INTs plus 109 carries for 115 yards and 5 TDs) displaced former starter Joe Casamento (10 of 22 for 70 yards and 2 INTs).  Casamento has since departed with a year of eligibility remaining.  RS So QB Frank Jankowski, who saw minimal action last year, will replace Casamento as Burroughs' backup.  Burroughs provides Talley with a dual threat QB perfectly suited to run a spread offense. 

Villanova lost its starting backfield with the departures of three-year starter and two-time All Atlantic 10 (Second Team in 2004) TB Terry Butler (152 carries for 636 yards and 10 TDs plus 13 receptions for 184 yards and 2 TDs) and two-year starter FB Phil DiGiacomo (23 carries for 105 yards and one TD plus 34 receptions for 282 yards and 3 TDs).  Former backup TB Sr Martin Gibson (81 carries for 400 yards and 2 TDs plus 11 receptions for 101 yards) will replace Butler and RS Jr TB Aaron Jones (19 carries for 93 yards and one TD) will likely be the backup.  Jr FB DeQuese May, who played primarily on special teams last year, will replace the versatile DiGiacomo.  Backup FB RS So Tyree Hughley (5 carries for 13 yards) also returns.  Villanova's RBs are mutli-purpose threats to run or catch.  And that includes the FBs.  However, the FB may not play as integral role in the offense as it has in recent years. 

Villanova lost two starters and three backups off a young OLine that saw several veteran starters displaced in midseason.  Three-year starter OT Mike Roseman departed.  Former starting OG So Brian Hentosz, a converted DT who displaced the starter mid-year, will return to DT this year.  Backup OG Jason Saks, a former two-year starter who was replaced midseason and had a final year of eligibility remaining, will not return.  Neither will backup OG Jacob Garner, a former starter and transfer from Rutgers, and backup OT Kevin Trapp, who played both tackle positions.  The Wildcats return starters C RS Jr Christian Gaddis and OT Jr Michael Costanzo, who will fill Hentosz's vacated slot.  RS Jr OT John Finnerman will replace Roseman while true Fr OT Mike Sheridan will fill Costanzo's vacated slot.  RS Fr OG Jonathan Krohe will displace former starting OG RS So Alex Suder, who will now backup Sheridan.  RS Fr C/OG Michael Probasco, RS Fr OG Michael Keller, and RS Fr OT Idriz Bauta, who transferred from Duke, will complete the second unit.  The Wildcat OLine is very inexperienced, with less than three years of combined starting experience and green backups. 


Villanova lost five starters from a defense that made a lot of big plays but also yielded up a lot of big plays.  Villanova plays an aggressive 4-2 defense similar to that of Philadelphia neighbor Temple.  Two safeties essentially play as OLBs, giving the defense a 4-4 look that puts tremendous pressure on the offense.  Villanova's 2004 defensive statistics are summarized below:

  • 107 rushing yards per game (#13 of 117 in Division 1-AA)
  • 193 passing yards per game (#49 in Division 1-AA)
  • 300 yards per game (#10 in Division 1-AA)
  • 23 points per game (#43 in Division 1-AA)

Villanova returns both starting LBs to anchor its defense – three-year starter, three-time All-Atlantic 10 (twice First Team), and leading tackler RS Sr ILB Brian Hulea (85 tackles, 8 TFLs, 2 sacks, one FF, and one FR) plus two-year starter RS Jr ILB Bryan Adams (58 tackles, 8 TFLs, one sack, 2 FF, and 2 FR).  Backup ILB Dan Silva (20 tackles and one INT) departed.  Backup ILB RS So Blake Shubert (15 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, one sack, and one FR) returns.  Jr ILB J.C. Cooper (3 tackles) will replace Silva on the second team.  The TFL statistics of the LB corps suggests that Villanova attacks with its LBs. 

Villanova lost three starters from its secondary.  Two-year starter and former First Team All-Atlantic 10 FS Raymond Ventrone (31 tackles, 2 TFLs, and one sack), who missed two-thirds of the season with a broken leg, departed.  As did four-year starter and Third Team All-Atlantic 10 CB Jeremy Morgan (59 tackles, 5 TFLs, one sack, and 2 FF) and starting CB Kinglsey Echemandu (46 tackles).  Two-year starter Jr FS Allyn Bacchus (61 tackles, and one TFL), the former starting WS who replace the injured Ventrone, will keep the starting job at FS.  Former starting SS and second leading tackler Jr Terrance Reaves (70 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, one sack, 3 INTs, and 3 FF) will switch to WS this year.  Former backup SS So Marco Radocaj (7 tackles and one FR) will fill Reaves' vacated starting slot.  Former backup CB Jr Rodney Badger (12 tackles and one TFL) and former starting WS So Kalise Cook (34 tackles, one TFL, and one INT), who filled the slot vacated by Bacchus last year, will replace Morgan and Echemandu at CB.  RS So CB Adam Clements will backup both Cook and Badger.  RS So WS Zach Mariacher, RS Fr FS Eugene Clay, and seldom-used Sr SS Bryan Boyson will complete the second team.  The Wildcat secondary is young, inexperienced, and lacks depth.  

Villanova lost the core of its DLine – four-year starter, two-time All-Atlantic 10 (First Team last year), and third leading tackler DE Jamil Butler (65 tackles, 16 TFLs, 8 sacks, 2 FF, and 2 FR) plus two-year starter and three-time All-Atlantic 10 (Second Team last year) DE Terrence Taylor (45 tackles, 6 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, and 5 FR).  Backup DT Greg Bishop (20 tackles, 7 TFLs, 4 sacks, and 2 FF) also departed.  Former starting DT RS Sr Darrell Adams (40 tackles, 10 TFLs, 4 sacks, and 5 FR), who started at DE in 2003, will move back to DE this year.  Starting DT Sr Matt Costantino (22 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, and one sack) also returns.  Former backup DE RS So Russell McKittrick (10 tackles and one TFL) will fill the other vacated starting DE job.  Former starting RG Brian Hentosz will replace Adams as the other starting DT.  RS Fr DT David Dalessandro and RS Fr DE Peter Caroppolo will pull double duties backing up both starting DTs and DEs.  Villanova has playmakers on its DLine but absolutely no experienced depth. 


Villanova returns all of its specialists.  Sr TB Martin Gibson (22 yards per return and one TD) and Sr WR J.J. Outlaw (15 yards per return) will again return kickoffs and Outlaw will again return punts (10 yards per return).  RS Sr P/PK Adam Jones will resume both punting (38 yards per punt) and place kicking (4 of 7 FGAs and 38 of 42 XPAs) duties.  Notice that Villanova rarely settles for a field goal attempt and usually cashes the TD.  The Wildcats have an experienced group of specialists although the punter is weak and the PK is rarely tested. 


Villanova has an 11 game schedule with only 4 true home games.  The Wildcats play exclusively on Saturdays in an extremely short season, with a late start, early finish, and no by weeks.  The non-conference schedule includes one Division IA Rutgers, intra-city rival Ivy League Penn, and Patriot League Bucknell.  Villanova will play a standard eight-game Atlantic 10 schedule.  The Wildcats drew a favorable schedule relative to the Atlantic 10.  While Villanova plays North Division favorite New Hampshire on the road, the Wildcats also host North Division cellar dwellers Northeastern and Rhode Island.  The South Division schedule includes two of three games against contenders at home – William & Mary and Delaware.  The home schedule has two laughers – Northeastern and Rhode Island – and two tough games – William & Mary and Delaware.  The road schedule has four winnable games – at Penn, at Richmond, at Bucknell, and at Towson.  Villanova has two swing games – William & Mary and Delaware.  Although the big games are at home, the key to the season may actually be the road schedule; Villanova will have to be consistently good to win this road slate. 


September 10

@ Rutgers

September 17


September 24

@ Penn

October 1

@ New Hampshire

October 8

@ Richmond

October 15

@ Bucknell

October 22

Rhode Island

October 29

William & Mary

November 5


November 12

@ James Madison

November 19




I predict that the Wildcats will finish 8-3 (6-2).  Villanova will open the season with a loss to a vastly more talented Rutgers team.  Villanova will beat always-tough Penn in an intra-city rivalry match-up.  The Wildcats will then lose in Durham to a suddenly formidable New Hampshire team that went deep into the Division I-AA playoffs last year.  Villanova will then win five in a row, including a home date with fellow South Division contender William & Mary.  The Wildcats will lose at division favorite James Madison but will end the season by knocking off another division rival at home – Delaware.  The Wildcats will qualify for the Division I-AA playoffs.   

Coming Next:  Non-Conference Preview, Part 3.  I'll continue my pre-season tour of the non-conference schedule with a look at the Week 2 opponent – the struggling Buffalo Bulls.  I'll review lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits. 

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