National Signing Day 2014 results: Grading the new 'Cats

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

With a day to think it over, how did the Wildcats do on National Signing Day?

Andy Talley and his staff did a good job landing players at the positions where they had a need. How do those players rate though? CAA and FCS schools sign a few players who are on the radar of recruiting services and big time programs, but many more will be under-the-radar types -- guys who are too small, or didn't play at the right school, or just didn't get noticed.

Some of these FCS and CAA recruits will end up making it big; at Villanova, Brian Westbrook is the most notable example, but Brian Finneran had a long NFL career, Darrel Young is starting games for the Redskins, and the Ventrone Brothers have each had professional careers, among others. Ben Ijalana was the highest-drafted Wildcat since Howie Long in 2010 after receiving no other scholarship offers. Who are the standouts in this 2014 class?

Rasaan Stewart - Villanova landed its highest-rated recruit in Stewart, who had offers to attend big time schools, including a late pitch from Pitt. The defensive back is a potential factor in the return game, but has the athletic potential to be a major factor in the Wildcats' defense. His talent level isn't unseen in FCS, but this is the type of player who normally ends up there after transferring from a I-A school. A+

Zach Bednarczyk - Andy Talley has always tried to do this; to keep the next starting quarterback of the Wildcats on the depth chart before he is really needed. It hasn't always worked out, but this is the team's latest attempt. Zach will sit on the sidelines next Fall and then be the number-two quarterback in 2015. He has good speed for a quarterback and has the potential to be a good enough passer for Nova's spread offense. A-

Brandon Hitner & Chris Buchalski - It isn't impossible, but it is rare for Villanova to recruit an offensive lineman who is ready to start on Day-1. The 'Cats go after athletic blockers who are usually undersized, like these two, and bet on their strength and conditioning staff to build them into 300-pounders. It isn't a bad bet to make, but building a giant takes time. B+

Ricky Young - Antoine Lewis is out at Villanova and Pat Williams is a senior this season, so the Cats needed another big body who can man the middle of their defensive line. At 6'2" and 290 pounds, Young has the body to take on some of those responsibilities immediately. He may have some growing pains along the way, but Nova has time to develop his skills. A-

Eric Drains - At 6'4" and 275-pounds, Drains is another big strong defensive lineman to help rebuild Villanova's depth. A former wrestler, who has a nose for finding key plays, Drains should provide some strength to challenge opposing offenses. Drains may play a role immediately, but will likely need to learn from the coaches to develop to his full potential. B

Rob Rolle - Villanova needed to get bigger in the secondary to help with matching up against some of the CAA's top passing offenses and Rolle will help with that at 6'1". He also probably has the speed to keep up with anyone he'll face after a standout career running the 4x100 relay and 110 hurdles at Delsea (NJ) HS. A

Malik Reaves - Another step toward a size increase on the secondary, Reaves checks in at 6'0" and 183-pounds. He could play either corner or safety at Villanova, and put up some great stats on defense this past fall. A

Ed Shockley - Villanova needs to replace Joey Harmon in 2015 and has three key juniors who will be graduating a year later. Adding Shockley and Steeb was a look forward to keep that pipeline filled. At 220-pounds, he will need to add a little bit more bulk in the weight room, but could play if needed. He fits well in the mold of other Nova LBs, but will be a few years away from a major role on the field. B

Jeff Steeb - At 6'3" 215-pounds, Steeb has potential to be a monster on the gridiron, but only after a little seasoning in the weight room. He is a hard-hitter who finds his way to the ball carrier and has high potential to develop into a factor. Like Shockley, however, his hey-day at Villanova won't come until 2015 or later. B+

Taurus Phillips - Phillips has run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and lit up the New York football scene as a running back. He doesn't project well as a tailback in college however, with Villanova instead planning to use him as a slot receiver, which will allow him to use his speed and elusiveness to burn opponents. He will still get some carries though, with Andy Talley indicating his role may be similar to that of Jamal Abdur-Rahman -- a playmaker. Phillips was receiving a lot of late interest from Nebraska and Nova was worried he might have headed west to Lincoln, but he signed yesterday. A+

Alex Padovani - Villanova lost it's big, consistent, receiver Joe Price to graduation and can anticipate at least two more losses at receiver next Spring. Padovani adds a 6'2" 195-pounder to the Wildcats' receiving corps to play on the outside. He has good speed for the position and an above-average vertical, but will want to add a little more muscle to aid in the blocking game. He'll be most useful in 2015 or later. B+

Matt Gudzak - With Ransford Quarrie out, this season, Villanova no longer has a true fullback on the roster. That isn't a big deal, since a "power" runner like Gudzak seems to fit Nova's spread offense much better. Villanova has a few guys in line ahead of Gudzak for carries the next two seasons, but if he develops into a guy who can "punch" it in on short-yardage and goal line situations, he will fill a role the 'Cats sorely need. B+

Steve Weyler - A consistent leg that can kick and punt, Villanova offered him a scholarship with the expectation that he could potentially come right in and kick for the 'Cats immediately, especially after the loss of Mark Hamilton to graduation. A-

Overall Grade: A

This is a great class for the FCS level, exceeded perhaps only by the class that brought John Robertson and most of the rising seniors and redshirt-juniors to the Main Line. Between the high talent and athleticism of this class, there is a lot of potential for it to produce some very productive and possibly great players.

Villanova also gets an A+ for overcoming a massive power outage without missing a beat on signing day. They successfully received all 14 NLIs, processed them and locked down their class without electricity. That's old school.

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