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JoltinJacket Offline
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per Villanova.com..... (July 10, 2002)

Villanova Football Looks to Defend Its Co-Atlantic 10 Championship in 2002

Head Coach Andy Talley's Wildcats have 23 letterwinners and 12 starters returning from last year's team.

With 23 letterwinners and 12 starters returning from last year's team that went
8-3 overall and captured a share of the Atlantic 10 championship with a 7-2 league mark, Villanova head coach Andy Talley and the Wildcats are excited about the 2002 season.

OFFENSE:

The big question surrounding the Villanova offense will center around replacing all-world running back Brian Westbrook. All Westbrook did during his Main Line career was set 42 school records, 13 Atlantic 10 Conference records, five NCAA records, become the all-time all-purpose yards leader in the history of college football and become the first player in the history of college football at any level to rush for 1,000 yards and receive for 1,000 yards in the same season. With Westbrook lost to graduation, the leader of the offense will be senior quarterback Brett Gordon. Gordon and five other returning starters will try and help the Villanova offense reach the high standard it set last year by averaging 36.5 points per game and 451.8 yards of total offense per contest.

QUARTERBACK:

Villanova boasts one of the top signal callers in the Atlantic 10 Conference in senior Brett Gordon (5-10, 185). As a sophomore in 2000, Gordon was named second team All-Atlantic 10 before being named to the third team last season. A third generation Wildcat quarterback, Gordon enters the 2002 campaign ranked fourth on the school's all-time passing yards list with 5,349. As a junior last year, he completed 262-of-382 for 3,017 yards to go with 25 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. By throwing for 3,017 yards, Gordon became just the second Villanova quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in a season. A fiery competitor with great command of Villanova's complex offense, Gordon will need to stay healthy all season long for the Wildcats to have a chance at the Atlantic 10 championship. Serving as Gordon's back-up in 2002 will be redshirt freshman Joe Casamento (6-1, 195) who was a 2000 first team All-State selection out of Christian Brothers Academy in upstate New York. During his schoolboy career, Casamento tallied 5,017 career passing yards, including setting a New York state record for yards passing in a single season with 2,767.

RUNNING BACK:

There is no team in the country who has a bigger void to fill than the Wildcats at the running back position as they try to fill the position vacated by the 2001 Walter Payton Award winner Brian Westbrook. During his illustrious Villanova career, Westbrook became one of the most decorated players in the history of college football. Besides winning national offensive player of the year honors last season, Westbrook also earned ECAC and Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Year distinction for the second-straight season and garnered All-American acclaim for the third time in his career. As a senior last year, Westbrook rushed 249 times for 1,603 yards (6.4 yards per rush) and 22 touchdowns, caught 59 passes for 658 yards and six scores, returned 17 kickoffs for 440 yards and one touchdown and he had eight punt returns for 122 yards. All total, Westbrook recorded 2,823 yards of all-purpose offense and he tallied 29 total touchdowns. The two players who will be called upon to help offset the loss of Westbrook will be sophomore Terry Butler (6-1, 195) and junior Henry Ridley (5-10, 190). Butler played himself into Westbrook's back-up midway through last year and finished with 10 carries for 59 yards. A strong runner with good moves, Butler has all the tools to be a top-notch Atlantic 10 back. Ridley should use his experience and versatility to earn valuable playing time for the 'Cats. Last season, Ridley registered 27 carries for 106 yards and five receptions for 35 yards. At fullback, Villanova has one of the top duos in the league in senior Cameron Cross (6-1, 235) and sophomore Phil DiGiacomo (6-1, 225). Throughout his career, Cross has produced whenever called upon as a runner, receiver and blocker. Last season, Cross tallied 35 rushes for 151 yards (4.3 yards per carry) to go with 22 receptions for 331 yards and four touchdowns. DiGiacomo showed great improvement each and every week last season as a true freshman and finished the year with 10 carries for 44 yards and 12 receptions for 112 yards and a score. Now with a year of college football under his belt, look for DiGiacomo's role to improve greatly in 2002.

WIDE RECEIVER:

Villanova will be led at receiver by a pair of fifth-year seniors in Brian White (5-10, 190) and Shaz Brown (5- 11, 190). One of the most underrated players in all of the Atlantic 10 Conference, White excels at every facet of the game. Besides being one of the team's best blockers, White possesses the best hands on the Wildcat squad. As a junior last year, he made 33 receptions for 391 yards and six touchdowns. Look for White to have a career year in 2002 and emerge as one of the top receivers in the conference. After tallying just 14 catches during his first two years combined, Brown turned in an outstanding junior campaign last season, recording 37 catches for 499 yards and two scores. As the team's top deep threat, Brown looks primed for another big year in 2002. There appears to be a battle for the No. 3 wideout spot between sophomore Noble Champen (6-2, 190), and redshirt freshmen John Dieser (6-1, 200) and Leighton Zema (6-1, 195). Champen has vastly improved throughout his career and appears ready to see playing time in 2002. Dieser and Zema spent their first year as redshirts learning the Villanova offense and expectations are high that both will be ready to step-up and be contributors for the Wildcats.

TIGHT END:

Villanova looks to be in good shape at the tight end position with junior Matt Chila (6-3, 255) returning for his third year as a starter. Last year, Chila made 15 receptions for 136 yards and three touchdowns. For his efforts last season, Chila earned second team All-Atlantic 10 Conference distinction. Besides being a pass catching threat, Chila is also a very good blocker in Villanova's run game. Serving as Chila's back-up will be sophomore Anthony Wright (6-2, 235) who will be a formidable threat in the Wildcat passing attack.

OFFENSIVE LINE:

No position on the Villanova team was hit harder by graduation than the offensive line. The Wildcats lose three starters from last year's unit including first team All-American tackle Eamonn Allen and third team All- Atlantic 10 Conference center Robert Richardson. The Wildcats will look to returning starters Sean McCarthy (Sr., 6-5, 285) and Jason Rogers (Jr., 6-4, 285) to anchor the offensive line in 2002. McCarthy will move from guard to tackle this season, while Rogers will once again occupy his guard position. Taking over for Richardson at center will be sophomore Mike Finn (6-2, 280) who started three games for the injured Richardson as a true freshman in 2000. Finn, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, looks healthy and should be a mainstay upfront for the Wildcats. Joining McCarthy at tackle will either be junior Mike Roseman (6-5, 275) or junior Chris Potter (6-5, 295). Roseman is making the move from defensive line to offensive line in 2002 and looked very good during spring drills. Potter provides Villanova with much needed size along the line. The starting guard opposite Rogers will be the winner of the competition between senior Chuck Tornetta (6-0, 295) and redshirt freshman Jason Saks (6-3, 280). Tornetta has all the physical tools to be a major contributor for the 'Cats, but needs to stay away from the injury bug that has plagued him throughout his career. Also vying for time up front for Villanova will be junior Matt Baumbach (6-4, 285), redshirt freshman David Reid (6-4, 265) and sophomore Matt Giddings (6-4, 285).

DEFENSE:

With six starters and a number of key reserves from last year returning, the Villanova defense will be looking to improve upon last year's performance when they allowed 27.8 points per game. The Wildcats were extremely strong against the run last season, yielding just 3.2 yards per carry. Villanova will be looking to improve upon its turnover margin in 2002. Last season, the 'Cats were a -3 in the turnover margin battle which ranked ninth in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

DEFENSIVE LINE:

Villanova has two big holes to fill up font along the defensive line in 2002. The Wildcats had the luxury of having two fifth-year seniors anchor the defensive line from the tackle positions last year in Kwesi Solomon and Willie Lewis. Solomon tallied 29 tackles, five sacks, four tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries last year en route to being named second team All-Atlantic 10, while Lewis was the team's emotional leader and registered 33 tackles, five sacks and six tackles for loss. The two leading candidates to fill the holes at the defensive tackle spots are the junior tandem of Baylen Botts (6-3, 240) and Mike Tesei (6-2, 265). Tesei has seen significant playing time his first two seasons and should use his experience to be a playmaker for the Wildcats. Botts is making the move to tackle this season after playing defensive end the last two seasons. In 11 games last season, Botts registered 17 tackles, five tackles for loss and five sacks. Also expected to earn playing time along the defensive line for the 'Cats is junior Carmen Falcone (6-2, 255) and junior Scott Rusnak (6-3, 265). Falcone and Rusnak have played as reserves the last two years and both look ready to make strong contributions in 2002. At defensive end, Villanova appears to have a good combination of depth and talent. One defensive end spot will be occupied by sophomore Jamil Butler (6-3, 230). A rising star, Butler registered 42 tackles, six tackles for loss and a team-best seven quarterback sacks last year. Butler looks to have all the potential to be a first team All-Atlantic 10 performer. The odds on favorite to start at the other defensive end is redshirt freshman Darrell Adams (6-4, 250). Another newcomer expected to contribute at defensive end is sophomore Terence Taylor (6-4, 245). Taylor and Adams possess both quickness and athleticism and have the potential to be big time performers for the Wildcats.

LINEBACKER:

The linebacker group will be led by senior Jamison Young (6-0, 230) who was a third team All-Atlantic 10 selection last season when he amassed a team-best 77 tackles, to go with nine tackles for loss, seven sacks, and two fumble recoveries. Junior Ryan Breeden (5-11, 225) will be given the opportunity to replace Joe Keating who has been lost to graduation. Keating finished third on the team in tackles last yaer with 60. Breeden saw significant time last year as the team's fourth linebacker and finished the season with 24 tackles. A newcomer to the linebacker mix this year is redshirt freshman Randy Sims (6-0, 230) who has the inside track to the starting middle linebacker spot. Sims is a physical performer with good quickness. Sophomore Greg Bishop (6-2, 225) and redshirt freshman Brian Hulea (6-3, 240) should also earn playing time at linebacker. Bishop is one of the best all-around athletes on the team, while Hulea has good size and strength.

SECONDARY:

Highlighted by senior Gary Johnson (5-8, 185), Villanova returns six letterwinners in the secondary. In his second season as a defensive starter last year, Johnson registered 50 tackles, two interceptions and an Atlantic 10 Conference best 20 pass break-ups. After playing corner the last two years, Johnson is moving to free safety in 2002. At strong safety, sophomore Raymond Ventrone (5-11, 195) returns for his second year of collegiate football. Ventrone, who was limited to just five games as a true freshman in 2001 due to a knee injury, looks completely healthy in spring practice and is poised to be one of Villanova's top defenders. Senior Darnell Greene (5-10, 190) will also see a great deal of playing time at safety. As a starter last year, Greene had a strong campaign finishing second on the team in tackles with 71. One corner is expected to be occupied by junior Clarence Curry (6-1, 190) who showed great improvement last year and is being counted on to be key contributor in 2002. Splitting time as a starter and reserve last season, Curry posted 27 tackles, 10 pass break-ups and two interceptions. The odds on favorite to start at the other corner is sophomore Jeremy Morgan (5-11, 185). Morgan saw time last year during his true freshman season as the team's third corner and has shown great improvement during spring drills. Battling for playing time in the secondary will be Kingsley Echema (5-9, 180), senior Aaron Smith (5-7, 180) and sophomore Isaiah Harrison (5-11, 170). Echema transferred to Villanova from Cal State Northridge where he started 11 games at cornerback, while Smith was Villanova's nickel back a season ago. Harrison saw limited action late in the year in 2001 and should see time at safety.

KICKING GAME:

Villanova will have a new look to its kicking game in 2002. For the past four years, Casey Hannon has handled the place kicking duties, with Chris Birch serving as the team's punter. Last year, both were honored by the Atlantic 10 with Hannon earning first team All-Conference acclaim and Birch being named to the third team. With Hannon and Birch both lost to graduation, the kicking game will now be handled by redshirt freshman Adam James (5-10, 170). James, who will punt and be the team's place kicker, was a first team All-State punter in 2000 at Harrison High School in Marietta, Ga.
07-20-2002 06:23 PM
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JoltinJacket Offline
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Post: #2
 
Senior WR Shaz Brown

[Image: a-brown_shaz-101501.jpg]
07-20-2002 06:23 PM
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WazzuCoug82 Offline
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Post: #3
 
great stuff for the Cats.
07-28-2002 12:26 PM
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