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First Down: A look at Villanova Football’s quarterbacks

With the Wildcats’ 2017 season opener just under a month away, we kick off our football roster preview series with the Villanova signal callers.

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

Over the next four weeks, 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 season opener on Sept. 2 against Lehigh. Today, we begin with the men under center--or rather--dropped back in shotgun for Villanova's spread offense: the quarterbacks.


Returnees:

#14 Zach Bednarczyk (6-1, 200) Jr.
#16 Jackson Bradley (6-2, 205) Jr.
#9 Jack Schetelich (6-1, 200) RS Fr.

Newcomers:

Kyle McCloskey (6-4, 205) Fr. -- Fort Washington, Pa./Germantown Academy

Departures:

Peter Burkly (5-9, 180)

The Wildcats are fortunate to be virtually returning everyone at the quarterback position. Not only does everyone come back, but they will have two more seasons remaining, including this upcoming year. They did bid farewell to walk-on Peter Burkly, who graduated.

Former CAA Rookie of the Year Zach Bednarczyk, enters his third season as Villanova's starting quarterback. Last year was Bednarczyk’s first full season at signal caller, since being thrusted into the role during the 2015-16 season. The year of experience beforehand led to an improved 2016-17 season, which was a big step up for Bednarczyk, who seemed a lot more comfortable and poised in the pocket. It translated nicely into the stat book.

This past season, Bednarczyk threw for 2,138 yards and 19 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions. On the ground, he ran for 539 yards and a pair of touchdowns off of 126 carries. Overall, he was much improved as a passer from his 2015-16 season, in which he threw for 1,396 yards and 10 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. As for his rushing totals, they didn’t change too much from his redshirt freshman year.

The key for Bednarczyk last season was taking care of the ball, which he did a better job of. Sure, he threw three more interceptions by season’s end, but he minimized his multi-turnover games. In 2016-17, there were only two games in which he threw two or more interceptions—Richmond and eventual national champion, James Madison (where he threw four).

As a quarterback last season, he performed a lot more consistently. A wiser Bednarczyk wasn’t forcing the ball or trying to make the big play every time. He had a sharper mind to go along with his strong arm, making much better decisions on the field. Bednarczyk was trying to minimize risk and thread the needle less. In the 2015-16 season, it seemed like when he tried to overcompensate or do too much in tight situations, he was punished with a pick six, a lost fumble, or a game-changing mistake.

Going into this season, Bednarczyk is primed to take his development even further. His coaches have said that his understanding of the passing game as an underclassman was more advanced than John Robertson’s was at that age—is this the year it finally comes together, and he bursts onto the scene? Will Bednarczyk take a similar Walter Payton Award winning jump like his predecessor did his junior year?

Fortunately for Bednarczyk and the Wildcats, all of their top receivers are coming back too. There will be a sense of familiarity, as there's continuity in the receiving corps—so it’s possible.

Bednarczyk is on an upward trend in terms of growth and that should continue under Mark Ferrante. At the very least, Bednarczyk should get All-CAA honors this season. He wasn’t named to a single all-conference team last season, despite piloting a CAA top-three passing offense in terms of passing efficiency.

Behind Bednarczyk are two other quarterbacks—junior walk-on Jackson Bradley—and redshirt freshman Jack Schetelich.

Adeyemi DaSilva has shifted from quarterback to wide receiver for this season, a choice that was probably spurred by being Bednarczyk’s classmate and a potential lock-in at backup. As for Bradley, the pure pocket passer appeared in two games last season, but has yet to log any statistics.

Schetelich will be coming off of a redshirt year. He fits the typical dual-threat mold of Villanova quarterbacks in the Wildcats' spread offense. He enjoyed a great career at Cranford High School (N.J.), where he helped his team win a state championship his senior year before coming to ‘Nova. In his final season there, he threw for over 2,000 yards and ran for another 1,000 on the ground.

The Wildcats will be welcoming local product Kyle McCloskey, out of Germantown Academy. Though McCloskey is known as a drop back passer under center, he can scramble out of danger if needed. It seems to be an underrated aspect of the 6-foot-4, 205-pound quarterback’s game. After all, in three seasons at Germantown Academy, he threw for almost 4,000 yards and 45 touchdowns. While those passing numbers usually shine brightest, what gets overlooked is that he was the Patriots’ leading rusher in the last two seasons.

A three-star prospect according to 247 Sports, McCloskey chose Villanova over a number of Division I football offers and some Division I interest on the hardwood, becoming Ferrante’s first-ever commit in his first recruiting class as Villanova’s head coach.

A multi-sport athlete at Germantown Academy, he fielded FBS offers from schools like Buffalo, Ohio University, and Bowling Green. He also had a few offers from a few Ivies—Harvard, Penn, Dartmouth, and Princeton, as well as other FCS schools.

Penn, Bucknell, and Lafayette expressed some interest in possibly having him as a two-sport collegiate athlete in basketball and football.

Moving into the season, these are the five quarterbacks that will be piloting the offense in Ferrante’s first season as head coach.