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Second Down (cont’d.): A look at Villanova’s offensive line

Approaching the halfway point of our 2017 football season preview series.

NCAA Football: Villanova at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We will be dissecting and previewing Villanova's football roster, breaking it down by position as part of our "Four Downs" series. Each week, we will highlight two positions.

Schedule:

First Down: Quarterbacks (Aug. 8) | Running backs (Aug. 10)
Second Down: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends (Aug. 15) | Offensive Linemen (Aug. 17)
Third Down: Defensive Linemen (Aug. 22) | Linebackers (Aug. 24)
Fourth Down: Defensive backs (Aug. 29) | Special Teams (Aug. 31)

It will transition right into Villanova's Sept. 2 season opener against Lehigh. We continue now with a look at the men who work up front, blocking the way for the Wildcat offense.


Returnees:

#60 Matt Donoghue (6-4, 275) Sr.
#66 Alex Coren (6-1, 280) Sr.
#75 Chris King (6-3, 290) Sr.
#73 Ethan Greenidge (6-4, 335) Jr.
#77 Brandon Hitner (6-6, 295) Jr.
#70 Louie Csaszar (6-3, 300) Jr.
#72 Keegan Sheedy (6-4, 265) So.
#67 M.J. Dumas (6-2, 320) RS Fr.
#65 Paul Grattan (6-3, 295) RS Fr.
#74 Patrick Lawler (6-6, 290) RS Fr.
#68 Kofi Appiah (6-6, 280) RS Fr.
#78 Peter Fallon (6-3, 285) RS Fr.

Departures:

Brad Seaton (6-7, 310) -- Drafted by the Tennessee Titans
Mike Williams (6-4, 275) -- Transferred to Jacksonville University
Nico D'Angelo (6-3, 280)

Newcomers:

#59 Kevin Crabtree (6-1, 225) OL/LS -- Medfield, Mass./Milton Academy
#57 Paul Meduri (6-0, 295) -- Columbus, N.J./St. Augustine Prep
#62 Colin Gamroth (6-2, 235) -- Mercer Island, Wash./Seattle Prep


After giving up the most sacks in the CAA during the 2015-16 season, the Wildcat offensive line showed some improvement last year. Led by the efforts of 6-foot-8, 310-pound titan and eventual NFL draftee Brad Seaton, and recent graduate Nico D'Angelo—who had three seasons worth of starting experience—the O-Line was able to bounce back a bit.

It helped that there was a more stability upfront in comparison to the 2015-16 season, which had a number of injuries in a handful of key spots. At one point, the Wildcats converted their tight end to left offensive tackle because of how limited they were due to injuries. Fortunately, Villanova didn’t have to do that last season, and it dropped the number of sacks allowed to 27 through 13 games—good for ninth in the CAA, instead of dead last from a year earlier. The Wildcat offensive line also paved the way to 2,682 rushing yards, the second-highest total in the CAA—right behind national champion James Madison—an improvement from being middle of the pack in 2015-16.

The Wildcats return three starters from last season—juniors Ethan Greenidge and Louie Csaszar, as well as co-captain Matt Donoghue.

Greenidge is a third-year starter. The Wildcat staff had high hopes for him coming in, and he would see the field—and a starting role—a lot quicker than he first expected during that injury-riddled 2015-16 season. He possesses a great combination of size (6-foot-4, and a bulked up 335 pounds) and footwork. With his frame, he’s still very mobile and is a solid run-blocker. Greenidge has protected Zach Bednarczyk’s blind side since taking over as a starter. He can possibly be an All-CAA type of performer this season.

Csaszar started for the first time last year and has been a fixture at right guard ever since. He’s one of the heavier ‘Cats around and that size helps him be such a great drive blocker on interior running plays. He excels at creating that wedge and turning his man inside-out on draws, isos, and read options up the middle. Csaszar is also an excellent protector on passing plays. He does a good job of keeping his man out, but also picking up linebackers or opponents that try to slip by, when he doesn’t have a man directly in front of him. On sweep plays, he doesn’t seem as big of an impact blocker then, but by no means is he a liability.

Like Csaszar, Donoghue got his first taste as full-time starter last season. Donoghue, a center, is the Wildcats’ most experienced senior on the offensive line. He has great speed and footwork. Donoghue is adept at getting to the second level, taking down linebackers on sweeps. He explodes out of his stance and really gets those key reach blocks on sweeps and outside running plays. Donoghue is very physical on runs and really gets after it. As a pass blocker, at times, he fires out of his stance a bit high. He’s certainly a better run blocker than he is on passing plays.

With Seaton and D’Angelo graduated, the Wildcats have two spots to fill. They accounted for the left side, as tackle and guard, respectively.

Local player Brandon Hitner comes to mind as a potential starter this season. The Garnet Valley High School (Pa.) product has great size and strength at 6-6, 295 pounds. He got to play in seven games last season coming off the bench, but the junior lineman seems ready to take the next step forward. During spring football, he was one of the standouts in camp and one of the most improved.

Other players to watch for include a trio of redshirt freshmen—Kofi Appiah, Peter Fallon and Paul Grattan. They are just three of five linemen who redshirted last season as part of a deep class. These three have great potential and seem to stick out so far in the offseason. Also keep an eye out for sophomore Keegan Sheedy, who appeared in three games last season.

The other change coming is in the coaching department. Mark Ferrante previously coached the offensive line. Now at the head coaching position, Sean Devine has taken over for Ferrante. Devine arrives at Villanova after most recently holding coaching jobs at Delaware and Boston College.

Villanova will welcome Devine, as well as its three walk-ons—Kevin Crabtree, Paul Meduri, and Colin Gamroth—to the offensive line.