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Football Signing Day Primer

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Villanova RB Jamal Abdur-Rahman signing his NLI a year ago.

What's the big deal about National Signing Day? For basketball, there are two open periods when a player can sign a binding national letter of intent, ending their recruitment and committing themselves to attend a particular school. This fall, Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu signed these letters and officially joined the incoming recruiting class at Villanova, but other athletes in their class will sign in the spring semester instead.

In basketball, there are more opportunities, in football, it all comes down to one spring-semester signing period that begins today, and because of differences in the recruiting and evaluation process for football players, it can be a stressful day. Players who received late offers often change their minds, or sometimes fail to meet academic standards.

Last year, Corey Majors was set to fax his letter of intent in to the Villanova football office on signing day, but it was determined that he would spend a year at prep school working on academics instead. He stuck with his initial commitment and will sign with the Wildcats today. Another recruit, Jordan Canzeri, received a late offer from Iowa and opted to sign a letter of intent with the Hawkeyes on signing day, instead. He was last seen scoring a touchdown against Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl.

In fact, Iowa has a reputation for swooping in and wooing Villanova commits at the last minute. It appears that their class is full already this year, however, so it isn't expected that the Hawkeyes will have much effect on the 2012 class today.

No longer future Wildcats

Villanova had a few verbal commitments in the 2012 class who weren't fully on-board with becoming a Wildcat. These players had verbally committed at some point during the season and then changed their mind to commit elsewhere:

A third recruit was both committed to Villanova and enthusiastic about joining the program when issues with academics, namely the release of his SAT scores, caused the program to cut ties. Mark Clements, a ball-hawking cornerback from south Jersey, was thrown for a loop late in the recruiting process, but did land a scholarship offer from the University of Maine last weekend — it is unknown if he will sign today. ESPN.com rated him a 2-star prospect.

Scholarship situation

Villanova has 10 players who were listed as seniors on the 2011 football roster. Some of those were not scholarship players or were receiving only partial scholarships for football. One of them, Norman White, is a potential NFL prospect who missed his senior season with a lis franc injury in his foot and will return for a final year of eligibility in 2012.

So how will Villanova sign more than 10 players today? The answer is that some of the players listed as juniors will complete their degrees and graduate in May. Not all will be returning for a fifth year. Additionally, the use of partial scholarships further muddies the picture, but suffice to say, Villanova will have room for the 2012 recruiting class.

Needs?

Villanova was a very young team last season, with only one senior starting games, there isn't any position on the field without an incumbent starter returning except for cornerback. That isn't to say that a talented freshman won't push an established player in pre-season and take over a starting role.

Villanova is losing a little bit of depth at linebacker to graduation and is always looking to add bodies on the offensive line, since it often takes an offseason program or two in order to get linemen ready for CAA competition. Additionally, with Dustin Thomas believed to be moving to wide receiver, the Wildcats are left with just Chris Polony and John Robertson returning at quarterback.

Expected Signees

Though we are listing commitments under specific positions, these positions are based primarily on their recruiting profiles and our understanding of their needs. Some players may be listed at one position and ultimately play another at Villanova.

Offensive/Defensive Linemen

  • Jake Prus - The 6-6, 260-pound lineman played offensive tackle, center and defensive line in high school and will be a versatile prospect for the Wildcats. He will likely contribute as depth in 2012.
  • Nico D'Angelo (2-stars - Scout) - Another offensive linemen, D'Angelo plays tackle and guard and checks in at 6-4 and 275 pounds. He did not play much in high school until his junior and senior years, but he puts up impressive measurables, covering the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds and bench pressing 365 pounds.
  • Jonathan Green (2-stars - Scout) - Checking in at 295-pounds, Green is a mountain of a man, who will come to Villanova intent on competing for a spot on the offensive line. With 6 players with starting experience potentially returning for the Wildcats, Green may have to wait his turn. He was told by coaches that he would probably play Center at Villanova, which means a likely redshirt with Dan Shirey heading into his senior season.
  • Tanoh Kpassagnon - A likely candidate to play defensive end, Kpassagnon is probably better described as an "athlete," who also played tight end in high school and competed in Shot Put, Javelin, Discus and Triple Jump for the Wissahickon track and field team as well. He is a raw athlete with a freakish 39-inch vertical leap and his ability to contribute will likely depend on how quickly he adapts to his position.
  • Bradley Seaton - Not much is known about Seaton. He also plays basketball in high school and is potentially a preferred walk-on.

Linebackers

  • Austin Calitro (3-stars - Rivals) - The Danbury, CT linebacker was recruited to Villanova by newly-appointed defensive coordinator Billy Crocker. Scouts like his ability to stop the running game and he has the strength and athleticism to develop into a star linebacker at Villanova.
  • Corey Majors (3-stars - Rivals, Scout) - Majors was originally supposed to be a part of the 2011 signing class, but after a year at prep school, the stud linebacker from Neshaminy High School has not wavered on his commitment. He chose the Wildcats over offers from Pittsburgh, Temple and Minnesota, according to Scout.com. He would have been among Villanova's most hyped recruits last year and remains a key piece in 2012.
  • Cameron McCurry (2-stars - Rivals, ESPN) - McCurry is a talented linebacker from Fleming Island, Florida, who has been successful playing inside linebacker at the high school level, but might be a bit small for that position in college. He will need to add some bulk in the weight room to play linebacker in college or could potentially be moved to safety. He could potentially become a major contributor right away on special teams.
  • T.J. White (2-stars - Rivals, Scout) - This West Chester linebacker is the son of a former Villanova football captain and starting defensive tackle. White brings a similar profile in terms of size and speed as Dillon Lucas, who was a defensive star for the Wildcats this fall. There will be less pressure on T.J. White to star immediately, but if he arrives on campus with similar drive, he could find himself a role on the field.

Running Back

  • Aaron Wells (2-stars - Rivals, Scout) - Wells is an undersized running back from Maryland who reportedly can cover the 40-yard dash in a blazing-fast 4.34 seconds. He could provide some help to the Wildcats immediately on special teams or as a third-down option in the backfield. It is also possible that Wells could find himself playing slot receiver or defensive back in the future.
  • Javon White - White is another speedy backfield option for the Wildcats who was offered a scholarship after running a 4.3 second 40-yard dash at a Villanova football camp last summer. If he doesn't stick at running back, White might also be an option at cornerback, where he averaged 3 tackles per game and grabbed a couple of interceptions this fall.
  • Gary Underwood - Underwood was a star quarterback at Winton Woods High School in Ohio, but will come to the Main Line as a running back. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns as a high school senior and may be an option to contribute immediately by running plays from the wildcat set (if John Robertson doesn't take that job).

Wide Receiver

  • Michael Burke IV (3-stars - Rivals) - Burke is a 6-3 possession receiver who has size, a sturdy build and excellent hands, allowing him to battle with opposing corners and grab contested balls. He runs routes well and has adequate speed. Likely a back-up or depth-option as a freshman, Burke will have plenty of opportunities to earn a bigger role as a sophomore.
Cornerback
  • Shayne Jones (2-stars - Rivals, Scout, ESPN) - Jones had offers from FBS programs at Central Michigan and Buffalo and had been hearing from some BCS schools as well, but verbally committed to Villanova on Sunday after visiting the campus. The central New Jersey prospect has good anticipation and ball-tracking skills as a corner and has shown an ability to anticipate routes as well. He will be able to compete immediately for the chance to start opposite Craig James at cornerback.

Quarterback

  • C.J. Logan - Logan is an Alabama native who moved to Massachusetts and played high school football in New England. He has been playing football from a young age and has exhibited excellent instincts on the field. He had originally been a verbal commitment to Bentley University, but switched to Villanova after spending a year a prep school. He is a quarterback by trade and is a tough and elusive runner who is strong enough to break tackles. He threw for 15 touchdowns as a high school senior. He may be unlikely to beat out the incumbent Chris Polony at quarterback, but has stated that he was willing to change positions.
  • Chris Papadopoulos - A preferred walk-on candidate, Papadopoulos seems likely to join the Wildcats in 2012 to provide depth behind Chris Polony and John Robertson at the quarterback position.

But Wait! There's more!

According to dailybreeze.com, Serra High School (Gardena, CA) lineman Kris Cooper will make his college decision during a ceremony at noon. The 6-2, 280-pound offensive and defensive lineman will announce a decision between Villanova, New Mexico and Montana State at the ceremony.

Wrap-up

If everyone signs today, it will be a very solid class for the Wildcats. It isn't easy to match the talent level of the 2011 class, but this one is still very strong. In 2010 there were 18 signees, 5 were rated 3-stars by at least one service and 3 were rated 2-stars. This year there are 14-15 verbal commitments, 3 are rated 3-stars by at least one service and 6 players are rated 2-stars by at least one service.

The class itself covers most needs pretty well. It appears to create too much depth at running back, but it is unlikely that all of those recruits will ultimately play the position they are listed at in this post. There will also be significant depth at linebacker, but also a wealth of talent. Some linebackers may be in line for their own position change.

More importantly, no immediate need is missing from the class.

We will have more updates from signing day as information trickles in. Check back throughout the day.