By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The 2013 season was an up-and-down one for the Villanova Wildcats. When it was all said and done, they finished 6-5, wrapping up the season on a high note with an incredible comeback victory over rival Delaware.
Hopes are high on the Main Line that things can be even better here in 2014. The Wildcats have 15 starters back from last year and they are ranked 12th in The Sports Network FCS preseason poll.
“Well, we’re moving along very nicely,” Villanova head coach Andy Talley tells KYW Newsradio. “We’re just about finished double-sessions, preseason, getting ready for the Syracuse game which is Friday night, on Labor Day weekend. So we’re going to be playing in the dome, and we’re trying to get ready for playing a big (FBS) team. Right now, we have a couple injuries in the (offensive) line, but we hope those guys will be back in time. But the spirit’s high and we’re excited.”
The Wildcats are set at quarterback. Junior John Robertson is one of the most exciting players in the country. The Paramus, New Jersey, native was named the preseason CAA Offensive Player of the Year. In 2013, he threw for 1,957 yards and 13 touchdowns and even more impressively, rushed for 1,405 yards and another 20 scores, leading an offense that scored just under 31 points a game.
“Well, we’re blessed with John Robertson, he’s an All-American player,” Talley says. “He can run and throw and he’s looked fantastic. He had labrum surgery in the offseason, but he’s recovered very nicely, it’s the non-throwing arm. He is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and he is a guy that can really take us a long way.”
Robertson also is surrounded by some pretty good and experienced talent on offense.
“We have a great group of running backs,” Talley says. “(Seniors) Austin Medley and Kevin Monangai are two returners, they’re like a one-two punch. We have to get our offensive line put back together again, but we have some good receivers, (senior) Poppy Livers is a guy who can really help us. (Senior) Clay Horne another guy. So we’ve got some people, (senior) Earnest Pettway, big tight end, is available as well. So I think we have some weapons on offense.”
The Wildcats allowed a little more than 22 points a game last season and they had one shutout, a 45-0 whooping of Rhode Island.
“I like our defense,” Talley says. “We’ve struggled trying to run the ball against them this preseason. They’ve been very, very stout and tough. We have a couple new additions in the secondary, at corner, and we’re trying to get those guys ready. I feel that right now our defense has a shot to be really good.”
Opening up with an FBS team like Syracuse is nothing new for the Wildcats, but stepping up a level like this always present a very big challenge.
“We played Boston College last year, gave them a great game (led 14-10 at half before losing 24-14),” Talley says. “Unfortunately, we lost three players for the year. We have to come out of the Syracuse game fit and ready to go, because the next team we play is ranked (#11) in the country, and that’s Fordham.”
That season opener against Syracuse will be Friday night, August 29th, at the Carrier Dome.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.