|« Finding a QB for Wagner not Exactly a Snap||Perrilloux Prepares for Jax State Debut »|
West Virginia Scouting Report: Villanova
The Villanova Wildcats have aspirations of winning a national championship at the Football Championship Subdivision level (formerly Division I-AA). The Wildcats enter the season ranked 19th and have a realistic chance to go all the way with an experienced and deep team lead by perhaps the best quarterback in the FCS.
However, their chances of beating No. 8 West Virginia in Morgantown are much slimmer and their coach knows it.
Villanova Coach Andy Talley says, “I think what happens is you get worn down, you get worn out. We’ll play 38-40 players, they’re going to play 65-70 players on a hot day and so, if you look at our game last year against Maryland it was 13-7 at halftime, so we’re in the game, and then they just wear us down and break it open.”
As Talley mentioned the Wildcats have a history of playing the big boys of college football. Before playing Maryland, Villanova has played Central Florida, Rutgers twice, and Temple, beating Temple and Rutgers.
“We’ve never played a top ten team, we’ve played a top 20 team, a top 40 team, but we’ve never played a team with the skill level of a West Virginia. I think the difference this year against West Virginia is you’re playing an elite team, a team in the top [ten], a team that’s vying for a national championship. There’s just a little difference in plumbing when you get out of that 25th, 28th, 40th I-A team and you’re playing a team from 1-7 or 1-8. You’re playing a super team with no weaknesses.”
There is, however, always the hope that a team from the smaller division can jump up and bite the big boys like Appalachian State did last year by beating Michigan. However, that win last year by the other Mountaineers may have done more to hurt the chances of FCS teams beating those in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A).
“What you would hope is that these guys might look ahead and be thinking about their league and some other things and maybe not so excited about us, so you can catch them napping for 15 minutes or so, but that won’t last very long,” says Talley. “It’s very rare, that was a modern miracle, Appalachian State beating Michigan, but I will say it certainly puts all I-A teams on alert that you better go into the game ready to play. So, I think that’s was the message that every I-A coach has for all of the schools that are playing a I-AA football team because the talent level at I-AA is improving but you just run out of numbers.”
So, this game doesn’t look to be too difficult on paper for the Mountaineers but the Wildcats may put up more of a fight than fans think.
Villanova has a deep and experienced team. Even though they are young, many of those playing Saturday have playing experience.
It all starts with quarterback Antwon Young, who according to Talley may be the best quarterback at the FCS level. He returns from a knee injury that sidelined him for the final five games of last season. He is a prototypical spread quarterback who can throw and run. In six games last year the 6’4”, 215 pound Young was 99-of-153 (64.7%) for 1,192 yards with 14 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
The Wildcats have been running the spread offense for about four years now. Talley says they were predominantly a passing oriented team before that, “We started getting these quarterbacks that were very athletic that could run and throw and so as we investigated we became more and more committed to running the option and putting a more multi-dimensional kid at quarterback.”
Villanova runs a pretty balanced spread, with Matt Dicken rushing for 1,354 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. He has since graduated and Talley is looking to sophomores Aaron Ball and Angelo Babbaro to replace him. Ball (5’9”, 200 lbs) is more of a physical runner, while Babbaro (5’9”, 200lbs.) has more speed. Both can catch which is an important attribute in Villanova’s spread.
“I like both guys, they played some last year, and they’re actually probably more talented than Matt Dicken. Matt was just a workhorse for us and we gave him the ball a lot,” said Talley. “We actually have four guys that can play there; one’s an incoming freshman who’s had a good preseason.”
However, Villanova’s biggest playmakers may be the Wildcat receivers. Senior Phil Atkinson (5’11”, 185 lbs.), junior Brandyn Harvey (6’3”, 195 lbs.), and sophomore Matt Szczur (pronounced like Caesar) (5’11”, 195) all return. Atkinson is a dual threat who will also run out of the backfield ala Darius Reynaud. He led the Wildcats with eight touchdown grabs last year.
As you can probably tell by his size, Harvey is the deep threat for the Wildcats. He can also make plays over the middle. Szczur may be the best all-around player on the team due to his speed, toughness and great football IQ. As a true freshman last year he finished second on the team in all-purpose yards with 957. He returns punts for the Wildcats.
Like West Virginia, Villanova returns all five starting offensive linemen and average 302 pounds across the front.
But, nowhere on Villanova’s team does the depth standout more than on defense where the Wildcats return all of their defensive linemen and linebackers. Defensive end Tim Kukucka was selected to the first team all CAA preseason team after registering a team best 12 tackles for loss, seven sacks and forced three fumbles. Just a sophomore Kukucka appears poised for a breakout season.
At linebacker Osayi Osunde (6’1”, 235 lbs.) led the Wildcats in tackles with 82. Junior Michael Holland (6’0”, 230 lbs.) returns from injury along with sophomore Terence Thomas (6’0”, 220) who started last year as a true freshman and amassed 59 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles.
In the defensive backfield you will notice something familiar—three safeties. Yes, not only does Villanova play a spread similar to West Virginia, they also play the 3-3 stack defense. All three safeties return from last year’s squad including interception leader Martel Moody.
All of these guys will be charged with stopping the electric West Virginia offense, led by Heisman candidate Pat White.
However, coach Talley is realistic when it comes to stopping White, “When you have to try and play Pat White one-on-one, that’s a very difficult assignment, and then when he tries to throw the ball I think he’s a very fine passer. He’s one of the two or three very best quarterbacks in the country. I don’t think you can stop him, I think you’d be foolish to think you can stop him. What you’re hoping is that you can slow him down and make them earn everything they get. So you’re concern when you play West Virginia is don’t give them the quick lightning strikes because that demoralizes your football team when it’s a 65 yard run or a 48-yard touchdown pass and those are the kind of things that are very difficult.”
So, as you can tell Coach Talley has realistic expectations heading into Morgantown. He’s not expecting to beat the Mountaineers or even hang in there much past the first half, but what he is hoping is that his team will learn from the game and get better as they prepare for a grueling league schedule that includes games against No. 4 Richmond, No. 6 James Madison, No. 9 Delaware and No. 16 New Hampshire.
Talley says the goal is to win a national championship and he thinks with his team’s experience and the return of QB Young he thinks it is a real possibility. But in order to do that the Wildcats are going to have to win about eight games to get into the playoffs and once there the spread offense and Young’s ability may be able to carry them all the way.
But before any of that happens Villanova will visit Morgantown for the season opener against the West Virginia Mountaineers in what is probably the toughest game in school history.
Scouting Report: Villanova
By Shawn Falkenstein, West Virginia MetroNews