As we dive into Villanova week, we had the honor of talking with Brian Ewart of VUHoops.com.
BC Interruption:. I am going to admit ignorance here. I know next to nothing about the Villanova program. Can you give BC fans a quick overview of some of your key players, and the style of play we can expect from the Wildcats.
VUHoops.com: On offense, Villanova runs a variation on the same offense that Chip Kelly popularized at Oregon. It is a no-huddle spread offense that looks to work quickly and run a lot of plays. Like Oregon and some other schools, Villanova's offense looks to run the ball out of those spread formations and they have had a lot of success doing so.
On defense, they usually utilize a base 3-3-5 formation, which allows them to take advantage of the abundance of speedy defensive backs available to FCS schools. Despite having an overloaded secondary, they are a run-stopping scheme that tries to take away the ground game and force the opposing QB to make mistakes.
Quarterback John Robertson really exploded onto the scene as a freshman. He has shown some speed on the field and was one of two Wildcats to accumulate over 1,000 yards on the ground last season. Robertson has some room to grow as a passer, but he was largely efficient in his limited attempts last season. Key passing targets include Joe Price, who is a tall target with good hands and great physicality, and the explosive Jamal Abdur-Rahman, who starred at the end of 2011 before serving a disciplinary suspension last season.
In the running game, Kevin Monangai is the leader of the pack, rushing for over 1,000 yards in the 11-game 2012 regular season, while Austin Medley has also exhibited an ability to break off big plays. There is good depth at running back behind them as well, offering a variety of skillsets.Defensively, look for Don Cherry to step up this year at middle linebacker. Rising junior Dillon Lucas, hampered by injuries the last two seasons, has lost his starting outside linebacker spot to Joey Harmon. Rakim Cox has the potential to make it to the NFL at defensive end and Antoine Lewis will play NT and maybe some DE as well and has been a key player for the last few seasons as well. In the secondary, Sophomore Cameron McCurry is expected to become a playmaker at safety.
BCI: Villanova is coming off an 8-4 record and a first round loss to Stony Brook the FCS team BC originally scheduled to play. What are expectations for the upcoming season?
VU: Villanova definitely expects to be in the playoffs and the CAA title picture again this season. Head coach Andy Talley is very confident about this team and he believes that they will be able to go deep in the postseason and challenge for an FCS national title. Reasonable fans are probably expecting at least a playoff win.
BCI: Teach us a little about the history of Villanova football. Are there any traditions or memorable games that are special to Wildcat fans?
VU: The 2009 National Championship game against Montana is probably the most memorable game in recent program history and the clear high-point of the program since 1980. In 2010 a team that underperformed much of the way due to injuries went on a run where they dismantled highly-ranked Stephen F. Austin and then Appalachian State.
Before the program was disbanded and brought back as FCS, they played in five bowl games, the most notable of which were the 1936 Bacardi Bowl, which ended with a 7-7 tie with Auburn. In the 1948 Harbor Bowl, the 'Cats beat the nation's best passing team, Nevada 27-7, led by Massachusetts-native Ralph Pasquariello (the Villanova Club of Boston used to give the best backfield player in the Nova/BC game the "Ralph Pasquariello" award). Finally, the 1961 Sun Bowl featured another great fullback in Billy Joe, who was named MVP after plowing through Wichita State's defense to lead the Wildcats to a 17-9 win.
Billy Joe was also on the New York Jets team that won Super Bowl III. He was a backup player by that point in his career, but it was possibly the only Super Bowl team to feature two Villanova graduates (the other being starting MLB Al Atkinson).
A lot of the tradition was lost when the program was cancelled after the 1980 season. There have been attempts to create new traditions since then, such as the Mayors Cup Trophy (currently in indefinite hiatus) with Temple and the "Battle of the Blue" trophy with Delaware.
BCI: The Wildcats got trounced by Steve Addazio and Temple last season. What do you think Villanova will need to do to win against an FBS school like Boston College?
VU: Temple destroyed Villanova on the ground the last two years. Villanova needs to play much better on defense, especially in the early going. Addazio liked to run the ball at Temple and if he has the talent to do that at Boston College, he'll try to do it there as well.
Offensively, Villanova's linemen are a little bigger and a little deeper this year than last, so the offense should be stronger than the team that faced Temple. Even though the score was lopsided, Villanova actually outgained the Owls, 365-362 yards, so I would expect this team to be able to move the ball downfield against BC as well. The question is whether or not they will be able to execute in the redzone.
It will really be key for the offense to eat up a lot of clock, chew up a lot of yards and put points on the scoreboard. The defense is likely to wear down as the game progresses, especially against FBS depth, so controlling the clock and keeping pace in scoring is important.
BCI: The once seemingly never ending carousel of conference realignment has surprisingly stopped. Do you envision Villanova eventually making the leap to FBS in the future?
VU: That is much less likely now than it was when the school was already affiliated with an FBS conference. Villanova's administration is rarely proactive when it comes to athletics and tends to be overly cautious. When there was a possibility of joining a BCS-AQ version of the Big East, school officials were willing to take a chance (though they had the carpet pulled out from under them by the football schools when they were preparing to make that jump).
They are beginning the process of upgrading facilities with a new weight room being installed this offseason and new locker rooms on the docket as well. Without a clear path to a BCS conference, it is going to be a slow process to get anywhere near the level of facilities that would be expected of an FBS school.
Thank you to Brian and the boys over at VUHoops.com for their time. For all of your Villanova hoops and football news, make sure to head over to VUHoops and follow them on Twitter at @VUHoops and Brian_Ewart.