One area where the gridiron 'Cats seemed to have some issues in 2010 was on defensive line, where injuries left them without much of a rotation. Despite this, the defense did an excellent job of stopping the run all season, and while key pieces return from the young defensive line in 2011, new additions will only make the 'Cats stronger in the trenches.
Patrick Williams, DT: Originally committed to play for MAC school, the University of Buffalo, the 6'2" and 280lb defensive tackle from University School in Florida committed to join Andy Talley's squad on an official visit a few weeks ago. As a senior in High School he helped lead his team to the Florida Class 2B state championship game.
Rated at two-stars, Williams is a strong presence in the middle of the line, who can squat 535lbs and bench 375lbs. He was named the South Florida Sun-Sentinal small schools Defensive player of the year after recording 48 tackles (21.5 for a loss) and eight sacks. Andy Talley expects Williams to be one of the freshman who could compete for playing time right away, either as a starter or a back-up.
Williams had a number of other offers -- at least ten other scholarship offers -- mostly from FBS programs (though none in BCS conferences). He chose Villanova because, "[i]t's not just any college but a prestigious academic school…getting a degree from Villanova will open up doors for me in the professional world. Not everybody can go to the NFL, so if I don't get that chance I can go pro in something else."
Williams was homecoming king at University School this year, after transferring there as a junior from a school in Orlando. He left that school after being nearly gunned down and losing his best friend in the shooting. He spends his free time mentoring younger students and volunteering for the Special Olympics.
Noble Ajakaiye, DE: There isn't too much information about Noble Ajakaiye out there. He is a pass-rushing defensive end or outside-linebacker from North Carolina. On January 22, 2011, he declared his intention to attend Villanova, telling the world, "I am a Villanova Wildcat for Life."
When writing about his decision, he said:
It just felt right and the coaches really care about the athletes. We had people from the academia made presentations and I met several recruits and current players. The campus is super nice and I believe the quality of education is top notch. If you are talented and looking for a great school Villanova should be high on your list. It does not hurt to know that the school might move to FBS. The quality of education plus the Scholastic sports tradition separate it from other FCS potentials for me.
He was all-Conference and all-County as a senior in Hickory Ridge, North Carolina and was consistently among the top defensive linemen for tackles and sacks in his home state.
Jordan Hunter, DT: Though not as highly-touted as Pat Williams, Jordan Hunter is expected to compete for playing time right away at Nose Tackle. The Burlington Township, New Jersey native also played Tight End and punted for his high school team.
He made the all-County team as a senior in high school, and as his coach Tom Maderia said, "Jordan was a dominating force on our defensive line for the past three years. His total athletic ability and speed is what sets him far apart from other defensive linemen."
Though now weighing in at over 300 pounds, Hunter actually played soccer most of his life, only taking up football more recently.
He is an explosive and powerful lineman who played on a high school defense that allowed only 15 points per game and six times allowed one touchdown or less.
I will return after the weekend with the next set of profiles. Up next: the Quarterbacks.