The Villanova Wildcats officially opened spring practice this morning, and will meet fourteen more times inside Villanova Stadium over the next six weeks. Last season's 6-5 record is a bit misleading. John Robertson's early season-ending injury diminished expectations considerably, but behind a stout defense the team still recorded several impressive wins to go along with a few heartbreaking losses.
With many important players graduated and a series of new players ready to contribute, this spring should offer up a good look at how the team is shaping up for the 2016 season. Here are the things we're watching for:
Is a quarterback battle brewing between Zach Bednarczyk and Adeyemi DaSilva?
With DaSilva injured early in the season, Bednarczyk took over when John Robertson was lost for the season. It was an up and down campaign for Zach Bednarczyk. His raw stats were decent (58.1%/1396 yds/10 TDs/7 INTs) and he did enough on the ground (4.9 ypc/5 TDs) to keep defenses honest. But he had a penchant for back-breaking turnovers at the worst times. Some of that is bad luck, but most of it is a young signal-caller forcing the issue. That gets fixed with experience.
That up and down campaign didn't do much to solidify his status as the starter in the eyes of the fans though. We didn't see much of Adeyemi DaSilva other than mop-up duty vs. Albany because of an injury during summer camp, but he'll have his chance this spring to show what he can do. The real battle may commence during summer camp, but we might get a sense of who has a leg up when we get to the spring game.
Notable position changes
Every year we see players change positions in search of more playing time, and this year is no exception. A quick browse of the roster shows that junior Mike Williams has switched from the defense to the offensive line. This is interesting for a couple of reasons.
First, Villanova's 3-man defensive front requires depth. Williams wasn't a starter, but was in the rotation and would appear to have been a valuable contributor in 2016. There's also the reported story that Williams came to Villanova in part to avoid playing on the offensive line at Maryland. Things change, and so we'll look to see if Williams can become an impact player on the OL with a couple of starting spots up for grabs.
What redshirts are ready to step in to the rotation - or a starting spot?
Ten freshmen redshirted last season - some due to injury and others to focus on getting more game-ready in the weight room while learning the team's system. The redshirts are off everyone, and they'll be extra keen to prove themselves ready to contribute.
On the offensive side of the ball, a suddenly thin WR corps means that a guy like Brandon Chadbourn could become an impact player, while Simon Bingelis will fancy his chances with the starting TE spot up for grabs. And can D'Andre Pollard get in the mix at running back with a ton of experience returning?
On defense, both Anthony Malaguti and Drew Wiley would appear to have the chance to step in to the rotation with Don Cherry and Dillon Lucas out the door, while Jafonta Johnson and Datrell Reed could provide the pass-rushing spark lost with the exit of captain Reggie Paris. A pair of starting defensive back spots are available as well, and that will surely interest both Julian Williams and Dage Davis.
With Andy Talley back for one last go before Mark Ferrante takes over full time, the team will be eager to get off on a good foot for the longtime coach. Though they lost several key contributors and a couple of All-Americans, they appear well-stocked to reload and be at the top of the CAA and FCS again.