Spring practices are over for Villanova football -- the last practice session of the academic year wrapped up last week, in fact. After reviewing the results of the Wildcats' 15 practices this semester, Andy Talley and his staff and handed their "Most Improved Player" award to two rising sophomores: running back Matt Gudzak on offense and defensive lineman Mike Williams on defense.
The awards are given out to one offensive and one defensive player every Spring.
Gudzak made an unexpected debut for the 'Cats this Fall when he was sent in to carry the ball after the score was lopsided in favor of the Wildcats late. He took his second hand-off for a long touchdown sprint, and showed coaches that he was going to be an athlete to watch. He played in 13 games and tallied 31 carries for 174 yards (5.6 per carry) and averaged 16.8 yards on kick-off returns. Heading into the 2015 Fall season, Gudzak will prepare himself to continue to take on more responsibility in the offense.
For Williams, the award is perhaps a sign that the big lineman is ready to battle for significant playing time next season. At 6-4, 280-pounds, Williams is one of the bigger bodies Villanova has on it's defensive line, and will hopefully be able to fill some of the role played by Pat Williams and Jordan Hunter in recent years -- covering two gaps and creating opportunities for the defense to get into the backfield.
In 2014, however, Williams appeared in just four games and recorded only two tackles. The Villanova defensive line had plenty of depth last season, however, and with graduations thinning out the roster, expect Williams to see the field more this year.
Once finals are complete, players will reconvene over the summer to work with Strength and Conditioning staff on an off-season program designed to meet their personal and positional goals. Pre-season workouts usually begin again with the full coaching staff, starting in August.
The 'Cats will kick off their 2015 campaign on the road at the University of Connecticut -- a former Yankee Conference and Big East rival -- on Thursday, September 3rd.