VILLANOVA, PA. -- Villanova officially began preparations for the 2017 football season on Friday morning with a spirited workout on the Villanova Stadium turf. The team's preseason camp runs for three weeks leading up to the start of classes on Wednesday, August 23.
The first day of camp had a different look for the first time in 32 years as first-year head coach Mark Ferrante was leading the Wildcats through opening day drills. Ferrante replaces longtime head coach Andy Talley who retired following the 2016 season after 32 years as the Villanova mentor. The Wildcats return 15 starters and 32 letterwinners from last year's team that went 9-4 overall and 6-2 in CAA play. Villanova earned an at large bid to the FCS playoffs a season ago where they advanced to the second round.
Villanova is picked to finish third in the conference's preseason predicted order of finish. Senior safety Rob Rolle (Newfield, N.J.) has been named the CAA preseason Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to earning preseason All-American acclaim from Athlon Sports and STATS. As a junior last season, Rolle tied for the lead in all of FCS football in interceptions with seven to go with 63 total tackles which ranked fourth on the team. He also recorded two defensive touchdowns last year, including a 100-yard interception return and a three-yard fumble return. For his efforts last year, Rolle was named first team All-CAA and a first team All-American by Hero Sports.
Joining Rolle on the preseason All-CAA team are senior linebacker Ed Shockley (Millville, N.J.) and senior punter John Hinchen (Saddle River, N.J.). Shockley is coming off a 2016 season where he earned third team All-CAA honors. In 13 games a year ago, he tied for the team lead in total tackles with 86 to go with 11 tackles for loss, four quarterback sacks and a fumble recovery.
Hinchen returns for his fourth year as the Wildcats punter in 2017. Last season, he tallied 57 punts for 2,366 yards for an average of 41.5 yards per punt. He also had 20 punts placed inside the 20-yard line and 10 punts of 50 yards or longer. Hinchen earned third team All-CAA honors a season ago. Junior quarterback Zach Bednarczyk (Wallington, N.J.) is back for his third season as the Wildcats starter under center. As a sophomore last year, he completed 178-of-297 for 2,158 yards to go with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for 539 yards on 126 carries (4.3 avg.) and two scores.
The Wildcats will kickoff the 2017 season on Saturday, Sept. 2, with a non conference game at Lehigh. Villanova’s home opener is set for Saturday, Sept. 16, against Lafayette at 6 p.m.
NOTES: Rolle and Shockley will be joined by senior nose guard Ricky Young and senior center Matt Donoghue as the 2017 team captains… Villanova had 90 players report to preseason camp ...The Wildcats have three new position coaches including Sean Devine (offensive line), Brian Jones (Running Backs) and Ross Pennypacker (Defensive Line)…Pennypacker and Jones are in their second stint at Villanova. Jones was on the Wildcat staff from 1984-87, while Pennypacker was a Villanova assistant from 2006-07…Joe Trainer moves from defensive line coach to Defensive Coordinator and linebackers coach. Trainer was also the Villanova Defensive Coordinator from 2000-04…Ola Adams who coached the Villanova running backs the last two seasons will be the team’s secondary coach and Special Teams Coordinator in 2017