Keith Pompey, staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote a feature today on Villanova’s preseason All American, offensive tackle Ben Ijalana, and gave a quick assessment of Nova’s prospects this season. It is well worth the read, but we have summarized the highlights below. With a hat-tip to reader ramon usategui, the Miami Herald picked up a heartwarming AP story that never gets old, Szczur Makes Tough Calls Easy at 'Nova."
**Buy Tickets for Villanova vs. Temple**
According to Mr. Pompey, Ijalana, a 6-foot-4, 320-pound senior is considered the second-best senior prospect at guard for the 2011 NFL draft, behind Florida State's Rodney Hudson. Ijalana is the only FCS player named to the Outland Trophy watch list, the award for the nation's top interior lineman. He is also a preseason candidate for the Walter Payton Award, which goes to the best player in the FCS."
Keith Pompey’s Nova Fast Facts On Villanova Football
"Last year: 14-1, 7-1 Colonial Athletic Association.
Coach: Andy Talley (26th season, 179-102-1).
Top returnees: QB Chris Whitney; WR Matt Szczur; LB Terence Thomas; OT Ben Ijalana; S John Dempsey.
Big losses: LB Osayi Osunde; DE Tim Kukucka; WR Brandyn Harvey.
Buy Gear Now!
Inside info: Villanova is favored to win a second consecutive Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) national championship. With 15 returning starters, the Wildcats are ranked first nationally in just about every major FCS preseason ranking.
Three of those returnees - senior WR Matt Szczur, senior OT Ben Ijalana, and senior OLB Terence Thomas - are preseason all-Americans.
If there's a question mark, it's the defensive line. Villanova must replace two of last season's three starters in defensive end Tim Kukucka and defensive tackle Phil Matusz. Defensive end Marlon Johnson, the only returning defensive line starter, must provide leadership to what will be a young unit.
Villanova should have an advantage in special teams with placekicker Nick Yako and punter Dominic Scarnecchia both returning.
Biggest games: Friday at Temple; Oct. 2 at William & Mary; Oct. 30 vs. Richmond."