July 29, 2009
BALTIMORE, Md. - The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) held its annual football media day on Wednesday, July 29 at the ESPN Zone in Baltimore, Md. In the pre-season predicted order of finish, Villanova and defending National Champion Richmond earned a first place tie to win the South Division with nine first place votes each. The two schools were also chosen as the co-overall champions of the league. New Hampshire was picked to win the North Division title.
Four Wildcats were named to the pre-season first team All-Conference squad. On the offensive side of the ball, junior offensive lineman Ben Ijalana (Hainesport, N.J.) and junior wide receiver Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) earned first team All-CAA honors. Defensively, senior linebacker Osayi Osunde (Bloomsburg, Pa.) and senior defensive end Tim Kukucka (Wall, N.J.) garnered first team All-Conference acclaim.
Ijalana has started all 24 games of his Villanova career. He garnered first team All-CAA accolades last year as a sophomore after anchoring an offensive line that helped Villanova average 29.4 points per game and 391.3 yards of total offense per contest, including 216.9 rushing yards per game.
Szczur, who is one of the most versatile performers in the league, earned second team All-CAA distinction last season. In 13 games a year ago, he tallied 78 carries for 449 yards and three touchdowns, 32 receptions for 511 yards and four scores, five punt returns for 43 yards, four kickoff returns for 146 yards and one touchdown and he completed 1-of-2 passes for 13 yards and one score.
Osunde has led the Wildcats in tackles the last two seasons. Last year, he registered a team-best 75 total tackles to go with five tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, one sack and a blocked kick. He was a first team All-CAA selection last year, after earning third team All-League honors in 2007.
Kukucka has earned second team All-CAA honors the last two seasons. Last year as a junior, he tallied 39 total tackles, a team-high tying 15 tackles for loss, 7.5 quarterback sacks, one forced fumble and a blocked kick.
Earlier this summer, Osunde and Ijalana were named to the Sports Network pre-season first team All-American squad, while Kukucka was a third team pre-season All-American choice.
Villanova returns 31 letterwinners and 16 starters from last year's NCAA quarterfinal playoff team that went 10-3 overall and 7-1 in CAA play. The Wildcats kickoff the 2009 season on Thursday, Sept. 3, against crosstown rival Temple in a game to be played at Lincoln Financial Field.