College football preview: Villanova University Wildcats

Matt Leon
August 27, 2018 - 3:21 pm
Senior safety Rob Rolle will lead the Villanova defense this season.

Villanova University Athletics

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The 2017 season was a difficult one for the Villanova Wildcats for one big reason: injuries.

It wasn't just the amount of players who got hurt for Villanova, but also who those players were. Many critical contributors were lost for the season, and as a result, a 4-2 start faded into a 5-6 finish (3-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association).

While it was a difficult campaign, a silver lining is that a ton of young players were forced into action, getting valuable experience that should really help the 2018 Wildcats.

"Since all those young guys — freshmen and sophomores alike — played a lot, they were much further along in the spring," Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante said. "They had to know what our offense and defense was doing schematically, so they were much further along in the springtime, and obviously that carried over into preseason."

Starting quarterback Zach Bednarczyk was among those injured about halfway through last season with a knee injury. 

"He's been cleared for a while now, so he's had a really sharp preseason," Ferrante noted. "Arm strength looks really good. Obviously he has a great grasp of what we're trying to do, going on a fifth-year guy with a third year of starting under his belt. So pretty excited about what Zach can bring to the table."

Before getting hurt last year, Bednarczyk completed 70 percent of his passes and threw for 1,068 yards in five games with six touchdowns. He also rushed for two additional scores.

The Wildcats should be formidable on the ground this season. In addition to Bednarczyk's ability to run the football, Ferrante said the running back position has proven to be deep and talented.

"The freshmen and returning sophomore running back Damone Drew seem to add some real depth there," he added. "We felt pretty good with [senior Matt] Gudzak coming back along with [senior Aaron] Forbes and [sophomore Justin] Covington. So we feel really good there and [junior] D'Andre Pollard's trying to make a comeback [from injury.]"

The defense will get a huge boost this season from the return of senior safety Rob Rolle. He was another player who missed much of last season, also sidelined by a knee injury.

"Just his presence back there is really good," Ferrante said. "Not only the calls and the plays that he can make, but he really helps everyone else line up. That's where we were hit hardest with graduation, in the secondary, so it's really good to have him back to help the younger guys that are now playing."

Villanova will open its 2018 season on Saturday against the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field.

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