National Signing Day (Wednesday, February 6th this year) for high school football players is now considered one of the biggest sports days of the year. And although the Villanova Wildcats still ply their trade at the FCS level, we've got National Championship aspirations next season after TSN's Craig Haley ranked us 4th in his early preseason poll.
With that in mind, there's always a good chance that at least one freshman will have a big impact on the field, and you should get to know them so you can be a know-it-all. Here's who Andy Talley currently has committed to the program heading into signing day.
- WR Lincoln Collins | Rivals 2-star
- OL Matt Donoghue | Rivals 2-star
- RB/DB Jason Ceneus
- DB Lorenzo Fertitta | Rivals 2-star
- DB Ralph "Trey" Johnson
- DB Wesley Smith | Rivals 2-star
- DE Thomas Plonski | Rivals 2-star
- DE Mike Williams | Rivals 3-star
- LB Travis Clark (preferred walk-on)
- DB Matt Rushton (preferred walk-on)
- OL Fran Walsh (preferred walk-on)
- RB Vince Thompson (preferred walk-on)
That's 8 scholarship commitments heading into NSD, which likely seems relatively small to the naked eye. If you follow FBS recruiting, you're probably used to seeing classes in the mid-20's by now, but consider that the FCS is playing with fewer scholarships and that Villanova isn't losing very many scholarship players this year. Here is the list of seniors from Villanova's 2012 roster who have used up their eligibility and definitely will not be back.
- WR Kenny Miles
- WR Dorian Wells
- WR Norman White
- DB Ronnie Akins
- DB Eric Loper
- LB Devon Bridges
- DE Marlon Johnson
OL's Dan Shirey and Billy Vogel will almost surely be back for a 5th season, but the following players may not be.
- LS Adam Nelson
- WR Chris Halcovage
- WR Nick Hurley
- RB Steve Jones
- DB Mike Mayock
- LB Pat Haggerty
To summarize, that's 7 players definitely gone, another 6 who likely won't be back, and 2 who almost definitely will be back, leaving 13 potential spots to be filled. In any case, we'll likely see a few more names (both scholarship and walk-ons) added to this list on Wednesday when Villanova begins to officially release the new members of the program.
We are going to be releasing profiles on each of the players as Villanova confirms their commitments, so stay tuned to this StoryStream as well as the hub that we'll be placing at the top of the page all throughout NSD.
When it comes to FCS recruiting, often times the best recruits are ones that have the underlying talents but need a little seasoning before they hit the field. The 250-pound offensive lineman, the high school running back or QB switching to receiver, and others who won't necessarily be slated to contributors as freshmen. For that reason, unlike the pro-ranks, a recruiting class will generally be more reflective of the past-fall's junior class make-up more than the outgoing seniors. Last signing day, Villanova went hard after linebacker depth to ensure they had talent there next year after losing Haggerty and Bridges this year, they also added Mike Burke IV and Kevin Gulyas (as a walk-on) along with other walk-ons at Wide Receiver to help backfill the depth chart ahead of losing Miles, Wells, White, Halcovage and Hurley this off-season.
More-immediate needs also need to be met. Players transfer, drop-out, switch positions, leave the program or suffer injuries. When that happens, the team may prioritize their position, or even seek a transfer from a bigger program or a junior college.
This signing day, the Wildcats have a hole to fill at defensive back. That need is somewhat immediate, given that the program is losing standout performers Eric Loper and Ronnie Akins and exacerbated by the fact that JuCo DB Marc Mauro did not last the 2012 season with the program and that last-spring's top-cornerback recruit has now been reclassified to 2014 after health issues pushed him off of the field. DB is a vital position for Villanova's 3-3-5 defensive scheme, so the coaching staff has responded by putting together a class that features at least five players capable of playing in the secondary.
Adding talent along the defensive line is a look ahead to this time next year, when Antoine Lewis and Rakim Cox will be planning their graduation parties and the coaching staff will need some capable athletes to take their place up-front.
With only the players committed right now, Villanova seems to be set going forward. Last season's class helped fill many of the program needs heading into the 2013 season, but as always, there is an opportunity for incoming freshmen to impress right away.
- Brian Ewart