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"Junkyard Dog" Chris Whitney Providing Grit for Villanova
At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Chris Whitney has good size to play quarterback, which he does for Villanova University. Those numbers aren’t quite big enough to make him an offensive lineman, but that doesn’t stop him from trying.
“He has really brought a blue-collar mentality to that team,” said Mickey Matthews, the head coach at James Madison University. “He hands the ball off then wants to go play offensive guard and go block somebody.”
JMU will try to prevent Whitney from running, throwing and blocking when it hosts the Wildcats on Saturday (3:30 p.m.) in the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Series playoffs.
Whitney, a sophomore, laughed when told of Matthews’ comment.
“That’s how I play,” he said. “I’ve played that way since high school, when I played both sides of the ball.”
Whitney was a safety in addition to playing quarterback at Saint Joseph’s Prep, but he could’ve played both sides of the ball at William Tennent or Archbishop Wood. Or even Upper Moreland.
He started playing football for the Willow Grove Bears when he was 5. His family moved to Kansas after third grade, but returned to the area, settling in Warminster, when he was in ninth grade. When it came time to decide upon a high school, Whitney’s mom thought St. Joe’s Prep made the most sense.
He became an all-state quarterback at the Prep before moving on to Villanova. Despite his high school success, ‘Nova coach Andy Talley thought it would be best to redshirt his newest QB recruit in order for him to better learn the offense.
Those plans were foiled midway through Whitney’s freshman season after starter Antwon Young suffered a season-ending knee injury against William & Mary. With Whitney at the controls, the Wildcats went 3-2 to end the year with a 7-4 record.
“I knew coming into the season to prepare as a backup each game, even though I was told I would be a redshirt,” said Whitney. “I was surprised when I was told to go in. I wanted to play, but I was still surprised. I think I was ready to play, even not knowing all the offense, but I think it helped me with this year, that I was able to get games under my belt.”
Even though Whitney didn’t think he would have to rely on that freshman experience this season, because, again, Talley’s plan was to redshirt him. But when Young struggled early this season, Whitney was called upon late in a game against the University of Pennsylvania. In overtime against Penn, Whitney dashed 9 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
He has started every game since, and the ‘Cats have gone 8-1, including a 55-28 pasting of Colgate in the FCS playoff opener last weekend.
“I think Chris brings a tremendous amount of toughness to our offense because of the way he plays the game,” said Talley. “We implemented an option attack in our running game and, while he wasn’t an option quarterback in high school or the fastest guy in world, he’s tough to bring down.
“In the passing game, when he’s forced from the pocket, he has been a tremendous force running the ball. He gives you another running back in the backfield. He’s a very good manager of the game and he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He’s very careful with the ball.”
Whitney has run the ball 118 times for four touchdowns and 444 yards, the second highest rushing total on the team. He has completed 107 of 154 pass attempts for 1,235 yards and nine touchdowns to four interceptions.
The numbers pale in comparison to the quarterback who will be on the opposite sideline Saturday. James Madison’s Rodney Landers is one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award after a season in which he has accounted for 45 percent of the Dukes’ offense with 2,905 total yards this season and 6,107 in his career.
“He’s a great quarterback,” said Whitney, “but we are a team ready to do anything for each other, whether it’s to get that first down or a touchdown, we’re ready to do what have to do. We’re not selfish. We don’t have a standout guy. We’re just a bunch of guys playing as a team.”
Led by a quarterback who sometimes masquerades as a pulling guard.
“He’s a real tough, hard-nosed football player,” said Talley. “We tend to think of quarterbacks being pretty boys, but that’s not Chris Whitney. He’s a real junkyard dog.”
Warminster’s Chris Whitney providing grit for Vill
By Ed Kracz, The Bucks County Intelligencer