Photo Gallery: Meet the 2014 Villanova Offense
VILLANOVA, Pa.--In the first of a two-part season preview the Villanova football offense is profiled. The team opened preseason camp last week and will kick off the 2014 season on August 29 at Syracuse. The second part of the season preview, featuring the Wildcats defense and special teams, will run later this week.
Expectations are high for the Villanova as the team prepares for the 2014 season. The Wildcats return 15 starters and 33 letterwinners from last year's team that went 6-5 overall and 5-3 in CAA play. Last week the Sports Network released its preseason national rankings and Villanova is ranked No. 12 in the nation.
In addition to their preseason national ranking the Wildcats were also picked to finish second in the CAA in a preseason poll of league head coaches. Junior quarterback John Robertson (Paramus, N.J.) was named the CAA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while senior center Ross Hall (Leola, Pa.) and senior offensive tackle Vince Kowalski (Williamstown, N.J.) joined him on the preseason All-CAA squad.
Villanova will play a 12-game schedule in 2014, including eight CAA games and four non-conference contests. The season begins with the game at Syracuse on August 29, which will air live on ESPN3. That contest is one of five televised games for the Wildcats during the season.
Below is a look at how Villanova is shaping up at each offensive position for the coming season.
The Wildcats have one of the top players in FCS football in junior quarterback John Robertson (Paramus, N.J.). As a sophomore last season, Robertson completed 169-of-247 for 1,957 yards and 13 touchdowns to go with 217 carries for 1,405 yards and 20 scores. The 68.4 completion percentage set a school record for highest completion percentage in a season. For his efforts a season ago, Robertson earned second team All-CAA honors and he finished ninth in the Walter Payton Award balloting. The Payton Award is given to the top player in FCS football. Robertson currently ranks fourth on Villanova's all-time rushing list with 2,426 yards and seventh on the school's all-time passing list with 3,922 yards through the air. Robertson is also tied for second on the program's career touchdown list with 34 scores. Senior Chris Polony (Whitehall, Pa.) will serve as Robertson's backup. Polony is more than capable of stepping in and playing productive football for the Wildcats. In 12 career games, Polony has completed 75-of-135 for 769 yards and eight touchdowns.
"John is one of the premier players in all of FCS football," said head coach Andy Talley. "He is a true dual threat quarterback who can beat you with his arm or on the ground in the run game. John looks poised for another spectacular season. I am also very pleased with the way Chris Polony has looked during the preseason. Chris is very capable of leading us to success if called upon."
Villanova has a dynamic duo in the backfield with the senior tandem of Kevin Monangai (Roseland, N.J.) and Austin Medley (Franklinville, N.J.). Monangai enters the season ranked ninth on Villanova's all-time rushing list with 2,029 career yards, including eight 100-yard games. Last year, he carried 130 times for 643 yards (4.9 avg.) and five touchdowns. In 2012 during his sophomore campaign, Monangai led the CAA in rushing with 1,210 yards. Medley has played in 28 career games and owns a 5.4 yards per carry average with 1,040 yards on 191 carries. While Monangai is more of a physical back who runs with great intensity, Medley will provide the Villanova offense with big play capability due to his speed and agility.
Junior Gary Underwood (Cincinnati, Ohio) will also see time in the backfield. The versatile Underwood is an excellent receiver out of the backfield who is more than capable of running the ball from scrimmage if called upon. For his career, Underwood has 22 carries for 101 yards (4.6 avg.) and 22 receptions for 235 yards and three scores. Junior Javon White (Telford, Pa.) will provide depth in the Wildcat backfield. White, who has game breaking speed, carried 17 times for 92 yards for a 5.4 yards per carry average last season. White also has the potential to be dynamic kickoff return man.
"We have as good a running back duo as there is in the league in Kevin Monangai and Austin Medley," said Talley. "Both guys are talented and experienced. I expect both of them to have big years. Gary Underwood has been impressive in camp as well. He is an excellent receiver who also has the ability to carry the ball."
There looks to be seven players in the receiver rotation. Of the group, the top target is senior co-captain Poppy Livers (Seaside, Calif.) who is coming off a breakout season. As a junior last year, Livers led the team in receiving with 53 catches for 580 yards and three touchdowns. The dependable Livers will be looked upon to be a playmaker for the Wildcat offense from his slot receiver position. Livers will also be the team's punt returner for the third straight season. Junior Aaron Wells (Ellicott City, Md.) enters the year as the back-up slot receiver. A good route runner with shifty moves, Wells should see increased playing time this year.
One wideout who looks poised for a big year is senior Clay Horne (St. Paul, Minn.). At 6-6, Horne will provide a big target on the outside and in the red zone. Horne also has deceptive speed and can be a deep threat. In 11 games in 2013, Horne had 14 receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns. A newcomer to the receiver group is redshirt freshman Lincoln Collins (Nahant, Mass.) who redshirted last season to improve his strength and speed. Collins looks to have the skills to be a productive performer this year.
The other three receivers who will see time this year include the junior trio of Anthony DeCamillo (Bentleyville, Ohio), Mike Burke (Columbia, Pa.) and Kevin Gulyas (Allentown, Pa.). DeCamillo is a possession receiver who has good hands and outstanding football instincts, while Burke runs precise routes and is an excellent blocker on the outside. Gulyas is a reliable receiver with great versatility. Gulyas has the ability to play all three wideout positions. Burke had 14 catches for 166 yards last year, while Gulyas recorded 18 receptions for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
"We have a core of wideouts who do a great job blocking and are consistent receivers in the pass game," said Talley. "The thing I like about the receiving position is the depth we have there. We have six or seven guys who all capable of getting on the field and performing at a high level."
The Wildcat offensive line will be a group in transition this year as three starters must be replaced. The leaders up front will be senior center Ross Hall (Leola, Pa.) and senior tackle Vince Kowalski (Williamstown, N.J.) who were both named preseason first team All-CAA. Hall has the versatility to play both center and guard. As the team's center last year he garnered third team All-CAA accolades. Kowalski, who has started all 34 games of his career, possesses outstanding lineman skills. He will be a starter at one of the tackle spots.
Sophomore Brad Seaton (Bronx, N.Y>) is expected to start at the other tackle position. The 6-8, 305 pound Seaton looks to have a bright future and will provide the Wildcats with size and strength along the offensive line.
Entering preseason camp, there are four Wildcats battling for the starting spots at the guard positions. The four include senior Kyle Wallace (Larksville, Pa.), sophomore Jake Prus (Woodstown, N.J.), sophomore Nico D'Angelo (Margate, N.J.) and senior Peter Sotiriou (Silver Spring, Md.). Wallace was a starter in 2012, but missed the majority of last season due to injury. He is a hard-nosed competitor who has the talent to be a starter if healthy. Prus, who has quality lineman skills and good strength, looks primed to be a contributor for the Wildcats this season.
D'Angelo is coming off an excellent spring season that saw him earn the Most Improved Offensive Player during spring drills. If D'Angelo can carry his play from the spring into the season he will have a good chance of earning the starting nod at one of the guard spots. Sotiriou is a veteran who has great knowledge of the Wildcat offensive scheme. He also has the ability to play center.
Other Wildcats who will fight for playing time are junior Justin Rhinesmith (Cape May Court House, N.J.), sophomore Jonathan Green (Ashland, Pa.) and redshirt freshman Matt Donoghue (Garnet Valley, Pa.).
"There is a lot of talent in the offensive line headed up by senior Ross Hall and Vince Kowalski who are both All-CAA performers," said Talley. "After Ross and Vince we do have some youth that will need to be served. Hopefully, the younger guys come along quickly and are ready to go by the time conference play starts."
Villanova has four tight ends who should all see playing time in 2014. Senior Earnest Pettway (Long Beach, Calif.) is a three-year starter who provides the Wildcats with athleticism at the tight end position. Pettway has outstanding pass catching skills. Last year, he made 13 catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Joining Pettway in the tight end rotation is senior Morgan Craig (Clarks Summit, Pa.), sophomore Ryan Morris (Barnegat, N.J.) who transferred to the Main Line from Purdue University and senior Doug Turrell (Orefield, Pa.). Craig is a good blocker with good hands, while Turrell is a good blocker who will be a benefit in the run game and in short yardage situations. Morris is a talented performer who should see his playing time increase as he becomes more comfortable with the Wildcat scheme.
"I can't remember the last time we had so much quality depth at the tight end position," said Talley. "All four guys have looked good during the preseason. They all add a different dimension to the offense which will allow us to have versatility from the tight end spot."