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2019 Villanova Football Preview: Special Teams

The last-third of a football game, but still a very important one.

NCAA Football: Villanova at Lafayette Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

After looking at Villanova’s offense and defense earlier in the week, it’s time to dive into the final third of a football team--but still important component of the game--special teams.

Villanova kicks off the 2019 season with a noon ET start time up at Colgate, on Aug. 24. Until then, we’re putting together a series of previews leading up to the start of the new year. On Friday, we’ll have a scouting report and preview of the Colgate Raiders.

Kicking and Punting

Freshman Nathan Fondacaro showed off his strong leg as Villanova’s punter. He also was responsible for kickoffs, getting touchbacks in almost half of his kicks.

After coming in as a five-star kicker and punter out of high school--according to Kohl’s Kicking--Fondacaro has lived up to the billing thus far. Villanova only has two kickers on its roster, and it will be interesting to see if Mark Ferrante may trot out Fondacaro at times to even handle field goals.

For now, Drew Kresge was in charge in that department, and after enjoying a much-improved sophomore year, he took a step back last season.

As a sophomore, he brought some much-sought out stability to the kicking game, a void that hadn’t been completely straightened out since Mark Hamilton graduated in 2014. Kresge made 8-of-10 field goal attempts and was a near-perfect 26-for-27 in 2017.

Last season, he was just 6-of-14, with six of those misses coming from the 30-39 yard range. He remained reliable in point-after attempts, going 31-for-34. However, if the field goal woes continue, it’s possible ‘Nova may have to explore using Fondacaro. With only two kickers on its roster, it would instantly be bad news if both can’t fully complete the job, but the limited number may be a good sign in terms of confidence. Unlike previous years where there were sometimes four or five kickers and punters, Ferrante is rolling with just these two. The ‘Cats will be hoping that Kresge 2018 season was nothing more than just an off-year and that he puts together a season similar to his sophomore year.

The Return Game

Expect Josh McGrigg to handle both the kick and punt returning responsibilities for the ‘Cats. McGrigg, a redshirt junior, possesses great speed. He’s been the primary kick returner for the Wildcats for the last two years. Last year, he added full-time punt returning to his repertoire.

In 2018, he fielded 21 kick returns for 420 yards. With punts, he had 68 yards on 15 returns.

New Special Teams Coordinator

With Ola Adams promoted to Defensive Coordinator, the Wildcats are also promoting Ross Pennypacker to Special Teams Coordinator. Villanova is staying in-house and looking to Pennypacker to direct this area of the game, in addition to coaching the defensive line.

Pennypacker returned to Villanova in 2017 to overlook the D-Line, after previously serving as a graduate assistant for two seasons in 2006-07. Prior to coming back to the Main Line, he was the Defensive Coordinator over at Division II Kutztown, where he enjoyed success in stringing together one of the better defensive units around at that level.