Skip to main content Skip to footer
Villanova Football Announces 12 Recruits During Early Signing Period
Dec. 20, 2017

VILLANOVA, Pa.--The new early signing period which arrived on Wednesday morning was a celebratory one for the Villanova football program, as head coach Mark Ferrante announced a group of 12 incoming student-athletes who signed National Letters of Intent to join the Wildcats next season. Ferrante and the rest of the Villanova coaching staff attracted a highly talented and dynamic recruiting class which lays the foundation for the program to continue the run of success it has been on for the last decade.

The group of signees announced on Wednesday includes seven players on the defensive side of the ball, four players on offense and one specialist. The incoming class for the Fall 2018 semester is also indicative of the success the Wildcats have had in attracting top talent to stay close to home. Each of the 12 student-athletes hails from the East coast, including seven players from the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania tri-state area and five others from the mid-Atlantic who come from Maryland and Virginia.

“We were happy to have all 12 of our expected signees send in their NLIs promptly this morning,” Ferrante said. “Due to graduation this class is a little heavier on the defensive side of the ball, but with these 12 additions we feel that we have addressed many of our positional needs. We are excited to be able to attract this group from our own tri-state area and stretching down to parts of the Mid-Atlantic region which matches the geographic footprint of CAA Football.”

The defensive players announced on Wednesday morning include Christian Benford (DB, 6-0, 180, Randallstown, Md.); Darius Pickett (DB, 5-11, 180, Nottingham, Md.); Michael Taylor (DL, 6-2, 225, Rockville Centre, N.Y.); Owen Thomas (LB, 6-4, 215, Lansdale, Pa.); Qwahsin Townsel (LB, 6-0, 205, Egg Harbor Twp., N.J.); Elijah Trent (DB, 6-2, 175, Rockville, Md.); and Garrett Zobel (DL, 6-3, 280, Hatfield, Pa.).



On offense, Villanova announced the additions of Qadir Ismail (QB, 6-7, 205, Bel Air, Md.); Jalen Jackson (RB, 5-9, 210, Richmond, Va.); Matthew Mazza (OL, 6-4, 270, Manalapan, N.J.); and James Petrovcik (OL, 6-2, 260, Westfield, N.J.). The specialist who is part of the signing class is Nathan Fondacaro (K/P, 5-10, 180, Sewell, N.J.).

This group of scholastic players will join a Wildcats program that has had 14 winning seasons in the last 17 years and has made the FCS playoffs six times in the past 10 seasons. Villanova has an overall winning percentage of .640 over the last decade (2008-17), including winning its first national championship in 2009 and advancing to the semifinal round of the playoffs the next season. Next year’s Wildcats will return several key players on both sides of the ball from the 2017 campaign, and the team will also look for opportunities to get contributions from members of Wednesday’s signing class.

Below are profiles of each of the 12 signees announced during the early signing period.

Christian Benford
Defensive Back
6-0 / 180
Randallstown, Md. / Randallstown HS

  • All-Baltimore County first team
  • 1,437 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns
  • 45 tackles and seven pass breakups

Nathan Fondacaro
5-10 / 180
Sewell, N.J. / St. Augustine Prep

  • 22 touchbacks
  • 40-yard punt average
  • Long punt of 60 yards
  • 5 star rated kicker and punter by Kohl’s Kicking

Qadir Ismail
6-7 / 205
Bel Air, Md. / John Carroll School

  • First team all-county
  • All-MIAA
  • Team captain
  • Crab Bowl All Star

Jalen Jackson
Running Back
5-9 / 210
Richmond, Va. / Thomas Jefferson

  • 1,446 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns
  • 8.3 yards per carry

Matthew Mazza
Offensive Line
6-4 / 270
Manalapan, N.J. / Manalapan HS

  • First team All-Division
  • Second team All-Shore

James Petrovcik
Offensive Line
6-2 / 260
Westfield, N.J. / Seton Hall Prep

  • First team All-Super Conference
  • First Team All-Area
  • Ranked among the top 50 players in New Jersey in the 2018 class

Darius Pickett
Defensive Back
5-11 / 180
Nottingham, Md. / McDonogh School

  • 13 career interceptions
  • 8 career pass breakups
  • 4 career touchdowns

Michael Taylor
Defensive Line
6-2 / 225
Rockville Centre, N.Y. / Holy Cross HS

  • 92 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, seven sacks
  • All-New York City first team on defense
  • First team All-League
  • Team captain

Owen Thomas
6-4 / 215
Lansdale, Pa. / North Penn

  • 53 tackles, 14 tackles for loss
  • First team All-Conference

Qwahsin Townsel
6-0 / 205
Egg Harbor Twp., N.J. / St. Joseph HS

  • Atlantic City Press Player of the Year
  • South Jersey Offensive Player of the Year
  • First team All-Conference
  • 1,616 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns
  • 52 tackles

Elijah Trent
Defensive Back
6-2 / 175
Rockville, Md. / Thomas Wooten

  • 76 receptions
  • 1,203 receiving yards
  • 14 touchdowns

Garrett Zobel
Defensive Line
6-3 / 280
Hatfield, Pa. / La Salle College HS

  • First team All-Catholic League on both offense and defense
  • First team All-State defensive lineman
  • First team All-City