CHRIS: I'm sure you saw my initial post where I talked about how I would rate the vaunted Villanova rushing attack if I were to create them in EA Sports 14. What did you think about my ratings? What would you have done differently and would you include any other players in that 3-headed monster?
BRIAN: I can definitely see a couple different guys getting carries wedged into the mix. At the very least, I would have included Jamal Abdur-Rahman, who is likely to split time between slot receiver and running back like he did as a freshman. He has good speed and break tackle ability that makes him a home-run threat every time he gets the ball. Nova uses him like they used to use Matt Szczur, where he spent time in the backfield as well as lined up at receiver -- of course, Szczur also got snaps at QB, which won't be likely for Jamal.
I also think you may have underestimated John Robertson's speed. He's probably at least as fast as Austin Medley is, which is absolutely blazing-fast for a quarterback at any level. When Robertson gets on the move, he's usually going to break off a huge play if he gets through the first level of defense.
An offensive line that can buy Robertson some time in the pocket and push defenders around to create holes for the running game is going to be key for Villanova this fall. They've got a big and experienced group coming back, how do you think they will compare to some of the better lines in FCS and Division I generally?
CHRIS: Abdur-Rahman definitely came to mind, but I only saw 1-2 games during his freshman season and didn't have a good feel for his skillset, other than speed and shiftiness. As for the line, two things jump out at me. Both coming off a good season, either Kyle Wallace or Ross Hall is getting bumped to the second unit because of the return of All-American Dan Shirey, which speaks to the quality of depth at Andy Tallye's disposal. Second, any coach in the country would be thrilled of a line coming back that consists of 3 seniors and 2 juniors. And among them, they've all got at least one full season as a starter, so there's a ton of game experience as well.
The right side of the line, including Shirey at center, is massive. You could put Shirey, Bucci and Kowalski out there and it looks like a trio of FBS linemen. The left side, as with most lines, is a little on the lighter side and I'll be interested to see how Ross Hall handles the transition from center to guard since he'll now be relied on for more one-on-one responsibility than last season, but I love the makeup of the line and it should create huge holes for the running game.
The secondary seems to be a bit more of an unknown heading into the season, what's your take?
BRIAN: Joe Sarnese and Craig James at safety and corner, respectively, are two budding stars for Villanova in the secondary, but losing a playmaker like Ronnie Akins will definitely hurt, and there is a serious question about who will nail down the other cornerback spot. Definitely worrisome, but the 'Cats play in a league where the best offenses seem to run well, so getting back to run-stopping is probably the key, and the secondary will be able to hang back in zone coverages pretty often.
Your thoughts on the schedule? That William & Mary through James Madison stretch looks brutal.
BRIAN: I feel like there is at least one brutal stretch of three games or more every season, so as tough as it may be, the brass ring isn't ever out-of-reach. Fordham is going to put up a fight in week two and Penn always throws the kitchen sink at Nova, so it really won't be easy, but those two are expected wins as are Maine at home and at Rhode Island.