#12 Villanova 2018 FCS Football Preview

Villanova Wildcats
Overall Rank: #12
#4 CAA
 Villanova Logo
Villanova struggled during Tim Murphy’s first year leading the program. The Wildcats did have some very promising moments, especially early in the year, but injuries derailed the campaign. If this group can stay relatively healthy, Villanova should see a drastic boost in the win column in year two of the Coach Ferrante era.
2017 Record: 5-6, 3-5
2017 Postseason: None
Coach: Mark Ferrante (5-6 at Villanova, 5-6 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Sam Venuto
Defensive Coordinator: Joe Trainer
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Aaron Forbes, RB, 568 yards
Passing: Zach Bednarczyk, QB, 1,068 yards
Receiving: Ryan Bell, TE, 302 yards
Tackles: Jeff Steeb, LB, 91
Sacks: Jeff Steeb, LB, 5.0
Interceptions: Keeling Hunter, LB, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Justin Covington, QB Jack Schetelich, OL Ethan Greenidge, LB Drew Wiley, DB Julian Williams, DB Jaquan Amos, DB Rob Rolle
Key Losses: WR Taurus Phillips, LB Ed Shockley, DB Rasaan Stewart, CB Malik Reaves, DB Trey Johnson, P John Hinchen
Quarterback Zach Bednarczyk played in just over four games last year before an injury ended his season. In those games he threw for 1,068 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. Back in 2016, Bednarczyk threw for 2,158 yards and 19 touchdowns. Changa Hodge was well on his way to a big sophomore season before suffering an injury. With tight end Ryan Bell, Villanova should have enough weapons for Bednarczyk. At running back, Aaron Forbes returns after rushing for 568 yards. Justin Covington was the team’s second leading rushing in 2017, but the injury bug hit the running backs too. Matt Gudzak rushed for 197 yards and three touchdowns in four games prior to a knee injury. It is obvious to see why the offense struggled at times and this year should be vastly different…if everybody can stay healthy.
The defense did not avoid the injury bug. Rob Rolle intercepted seven passes in 2016 and made just four appearances last year before injuries ended his 2017 campaign. With Julian Williams and Jaquan Amos joining Rolle, the secondary should be much improved from a unit that ranked last in CAA in pass defense. If the defensive front can get some pressure on the opposing quarterback from players like Jafonta Johnson, the secondary will have a much easier time containing the potent passing attacks in the CAA. A talented group of linebackers should help bridge the gap. Jeff Steeb, Keeling Hunter and Drew Wiley are all upperclassmen and will provide some stability to a defense that should be among the best in the conference.
The Bottom Line:
Like last year, Villanova opens the season on the road against Temple and Lehigh. The other non-conference game is against Bucknell. As usual, the CAA slate will be difficult. Villanova travels to Stony Brook and Maine early on and that is followed by perhaps the biggest stretch of games of the year. The Wildcats host James Madison and New Hampshire, with a bye week in-between, before traveling to Richmond on November 3rd. If Villanova can stay healthy, they can win tough games like those and reach the playoffs.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 137.3 (72nd in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 152.9 (105, 10)
Total Offense: 290.2 (100, 10)
Scoring Offense: 21.0 (84, 8)
Rushing Defense: 76.2 (4, 1)
Pass Defense: 258.3 (107, 12)
Total Defense: 334.5 (33, 6)
Scoring Defense: 16.1 (9, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.55 (25, 3)
Sacks: 1.55 (93, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 2.82 (106, 9)
HERO Sports 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#100 Michael Taylor
#175 Dez Boykin
#185 Owen Thomas
#224 Elijah Trent