Football National Signing Day 2013: Villanova recruiting needs assessment

So the Wildcats signed a bunch of football players to national letters of intent, but what does that mean for the program? How did they do? Should fans be jubilant or depressed?

Villanova signed just eight players to a national letter of intent to join the football program today, but the quantity of the recruiting class is no cause for alarm as the Wildcats have only a small group departing this Spring. Around eight or nine scholarships opened up with the departures of a class that included standout players like Norman White and Ronnie Akins — and it is very likely that one of those scholarships was passed directly on to sophomore walk-on, Kevin Gulyas, who was hoping to earn his scholarship after one season.

The departures include a number of preferred walk-on players who may not have played a huge role on the field, but who contributed in practices, training camps and put in hard work for something other than a featured role. Some of the seniors won't be departing, instead staying on board for a fifth season. Bill Vogel and Dan Shirey, both offensive linemen, are candidates for that extra time, and are likely to receive it.

As a reminder, the Wildcats signed the following players to scholarships:

The program is also expected to add a few preferred walk-ons as well, including:

Both Rushton and Thompson are the sons of former Villanova football greats, and will add to the team's depth at their positions.

The list of Villanova football seniors is largely a list of players whose contributions to the program will need to be replaced before the 2013 season can kick off this fall. For some, that may be a tall task, but the coaching staff is charged with finding a solution.

Departed Seniors (2013):

No. Name Pos. Year Ht./Wt. Hometown/High School/Previous School
10 Miles, Kenny WR SR 6-0/200 Buena, N.J./Buena
44 Bridges, Devon LB SR 6-0/250 Upper Marlboro, Md./Frederick Douglas
8 White, Norman WR SR 6-4/220 Hammonton, N.J./St. Joseph's
31 Hurley, Nick WR SR 5-10/180 Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Central Catholic
3 Wells, Dorian WR SR 5-9/200 West Covina, Calif./South Hills
58 Johnson, Marlon DE SR 6-3/260 Baltimore, Md./St. Mary's
28 Loper, Eric DB SR 5-11/190 Sicklerville, N.J./Timber Creek
13 Halcovage, Chris WR SR 5-9/190 Pottsville, Pa./Nativity B.V.M.
25 Mayock, Mike DB SR 6-1/210 Newtown Square, Pa./Malvern Prep
33 Haggerty, Pat LB SR 6-0/225 Shillington, Pa./Governor Mifflin
70 Vogel, Bill OL SR 6-4/275 Lincoln, Neb./St. Pius X/Nebraska-Omaha
6 Akins, Ronnie DB SR 6-1/205 Lansdale, Pa./North Penn
38 Nelson, Adam LS SR 6-4/235 St. Joseph, Mo./St. Joseph Christian School
50 Shirey, Dan OL SR 6-3/285 Feasterville, Pa./Neshaminy
34 Jones, Steve RB SR 5-5/190 Springfield, Pa./Springfield


If you read our signing day preview, you'd know that, for the most part, the coaching staff tries to stay ahead of the curve in recruiting, filling the most-pressing needs a year-out in an attempt to avoid relying on a freshman to come in and be ready to play at any position. Sometimes it doesn't work that way, and sometimes a freshman shows up so ready to go that the staff will push them up the depth chart ahead of schedule.

Examples of those scenarios are why Dillon Lucas started at linebacker as an undersized freshman or why Chris Polony was asked to start at quarterback in 2011.

In 2013, with just about everyone returning, it will take a big time performance for most of the freshmen to push their way into the starting lineup. Where it may be possible is at defensive back, where the departure of safety Ronnie Akins and cornerback Eric Loper will require a talented and motivated replacement. Rising juniors Shane Harris and Corey Reeder are next up on the depth chart at corner, but even if one wins the starting job, there will be room for a freshman to steal some time as a back-up or nickel corner. At safety, the Wildcats had rising senior John Maughan listed behind Akins last year and expect rising sophomore Cameron McCurry and rising junior Jerry Miles to make an effort as well, along with some of the freshmen candidates.

The battle at safety seems more wide-open than other spots, especially given the disappearance of Marc Mauro, who was brought in from Nassau Community College a year ago to add depth in the secondary. By midseason his name had been removed from Villanova's roster and he does not appear to be in the picture to challenge for time. The Wildcats also failed to get another top cornerback recruit admitted a year ago, which made DB a position of need this season.

Another opening is at wide receiver, where the 'Cats need a replacement for Norman White on the outside -- but expect that Clay Horne, Mike Burke and perhaps Kevin Gulyas will make a push for that spot. At practically every other position, however, the Wildcats seem to be returning a starter, and often a key back-up as well.

The real key to grading this recruiting class, however, are the rising seniors who will need to be replaced a year from now -- preferably by seasoned sophomores and juniors instead of inexperienced freshmen.

Rising Seniors (2014):

No. Name Pos. Year Ht./Wt. Hometown/High School/Previous School






99 Cox, Rakim DL JR 6-4/265 San Diego, Calif./San Diego
90 Lewis, Antoine DL JR 6-2/290 Somers Point, N.J./Mainland
95 Lumer, Josh DL JR 6-2/235 Sherman Oaks, Calif./Campbell Hall
21 Quarrie, Ransford RB JR 6-0/255 Hamilton, N.J./Notre Dame
75 Bucci, Josh OL JR 6-6/330 Beaver, Pa./Beaver
17 Price, Joe WR JR 6-3/200 Havertown, Pa./Malvern Prep
9 Erbeznik, Brennan DL JR 6-7/260 Santa Monica, Calif./Santa Monica
82 Gatti, Vinnie WR JR 5-9/175 Indiana, Pa./Indiana
11 James, Craig DB JR 5-11/195 Mays Landing, N.J./Oakcrest
27 Maughan, John DB JR 5-10/205 Park Ridge, N.J./Bergen Catholic
89 Waller, Garrett WR JR 5-9/155 Tulsa, Okla./Cascia Hall
56 Armstrong, Tyrone LB JR 6-0/235 Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy
93 Hamilton, Mark PK/P JR 5-11/175 Gaithersburg, Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel
96 McAliney, Conor PK JR 6-2/170 Scranton, Pa./Scranton Prep
97 Malone, Keelan DL JR 6-1/240 Santa Monica, Calif./Santa Monica

The list of juniors obviates why the Wildcats added Plonski and Williams this season. Antoine Lewis and Rakim Cox started on the defensive line in 2012 (and will again this fall), and Keelan Malone was a major help in the pass-rush. Brennan Erbeznik switched from tight end last year and quickly demonstrated an ability to play, and almost won a starting job last season. Plonski and Williams come in as understudies in 2013, but will be groomed to fill those roles. Add in rising junior nose tackle Pat Williams and you have three guys who can step up and potentially start in 2014.

Even adding two this year, the 'Cats are likely to add a few more defensive linemen for depth in next year's recruiting class.

At defensive back, James Craig is a starting corner and John Maughan is a potential starter at safety this season, meaning that the Wildcats will need to replace at least one starting DB in 2014. In addition, they had to backfill a deficit created by the above-mentioned issues -- leading to them adding four players at safety or corner. The 'Cats 3-3-5 scheme requires a decent amount of depth and between this off-season and next the team will lose five players in the secondary.

Villanova went hard after wide receivers in last year's recruiting class, in order to have some experience on hand for this offseason, when they lose White, Wells, Hurley and Halcovage. Jamal Abdur-Rahman will likely step into Wells' shoes while Norman White will be tougher to replace. The addition of Lincoln Collins looks forward to this time next season, when Joe Price will be finishing his senior season on the Main Line and the 'Cats will be looking for a ready-replacement.

Similarly, Matt Donoghue appears to be a replacement for Josh Bucci's spot on the roster, as the offensive line starter will graduate after the 2013 season. Nova is deep on the offensive line right now, especially with Dan Shirey and Bill Vogel likely returning for one more season, but it's an important position for any team, and that depth may dry up quickly.

Grades

Grading a signing class on national signing day is no easy task, but we can look ahead to how the team is set up and do our best.

Lincoln Collins, WR - Measuring in at 6-4, Collins has great size for an outside receiver, and his speed improved over his four years in high school. His production was not huge in high school, but there weren't necessarily many opportunities for him to shine in the BC High offense. He appears to be the type of athletic receiver that Coach Brian Flinn likes to mold. A-

Matt Donoghue, OL - Even with a ton of depth along the offensive line, Villanova needed to sign another lineman this year, and at 6-4, 274 pounds, Donoghue is a solid addition. It may take a year or two to build him up enough to be a factor on the depth chart, but the Wildcats' strength and conditioning team has a good track record in that department. Most Villanova o-linemen are projects and Donoghue is no different. B+

Defensive Backs - Jason Ceneus emerged on most teams' radar late in the season, while Lorenzo Fertitta, Jr. was known early on. Both could contribute for the Wildcats at some point in their careers. Wes Smith and Trey Johnson are speedy recruits out of Florida, sporting a 4.5 or better 40-yard dash, who will look to fill a role at either cornerback or safety. With a constant need in the secondary, Nova needed to reload this season, and it seems that they've added four athletic options. B+

Defensive Ends - Mike Williams has size and athleticism, which is what made him an attractive option for Maryland as an offensive lineman. Williams wanted to play on defense, however, and that's how he ended up as a Wildcat -- he can be solid on the inside of a four-man front and will be able to apply pressure from the end position in a three-man front as well. Rated 3-stars by Rivals.com, Williams is the highest-rated recruit in Villanova's class. Plonski was also rated 3-stars by one service, 247Sports, but was 2-stars in the more established recruit ratings by Scout and Rivals. Plonski may need to add some bulk before he's ready to start on the Main Line, but he appears to be a strong a skilled player who should start at Villanova eventually. B+

Overall - With an eight-man recruiting class, it's hard to fill every hole. They did an outstanding job of filling the most pressing needs with very good FCS-level recruits. This is a team hoping to challenge for a National Championship again in the next few years and one key to accomplishing that is to keep a good pipeline of talent flowing into the program. While not as impressive as the last two recruiting classes, the 'Cats landed mostly rated recruits and guys who will likely compete for key roles down the line. B+

UPDATED: VUhoops has confirmed that Brennan Erbeznik will graduate this Spring, leaving a more-immediate need at defensive end.

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