Villanova CAA Media Day + Early Season Preview
Written by David Szczepanski on July 26, 2023
With the beginning of August almost here, college football season is right around the corner. On Tuesday morning, Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante, defensive back Jalen Goodman, and wide receiver Jaaron Hayek spoke as part of the CAA’s Media Day.
Awards and Predictions
Prior to the press conference, the CAA announced that Jaaron Hayek and offensive lineman Michael Corbi were selected to the Preseason All-Conference Team. In addition, Jalen Goodman and kicker Matt Mercurio were named Preseason Honorable Mentions. After the preseason awards were given out, the CAA also released their 2023 Predicted Order of Finish. The Predicted Order of Finish is voted on by head coaches.
The Wildcats are predicted to finish 7th in the CAA with 129 votes just one season after being predicted to win the CAA. Villanova finished the 2022 season with a 6-5 overall record for an eighth-place finish in the CAA, which was won by William & Mary. William & Mary is once again predicted to win the CAA with New Hampshire and Richmond rounding out the top three.
When asked about being selected to finish 7th in the CAA, Jaaron Hayek said, “It reminds me of my freshman year in 2019. We were picked dead last to finish in the CAA and I think we ended up finishing Top 2 or 3.” Hayek also added that, “Coach Ferrante tries to hone in on us every single year that it doesn’t really matter if we are picked seventh, first, or fifteenth….it doesn’t really affect how we enter the season.” Ferrante added, “It’s hard to not see it with social media. So, you’re going to see the preseason rankings. It’s unavoidable….But we try to approach every year the same.”
The Quarterback Situation
Coach Ferrante also talked about his quarterback situation heading into the season. “We always start fresh every year. I talk to the guys all the time….you’re our starter last year, now you have to fight to maintain and keep that spot.” Ferrante first mentioned Connor Watkins, who will be coming back as a graduate student. Ferrante added that Watkins has been in the system and has worked with QB coach, Chris Boden, the longest. Connor Watkins saw most of the time at quarterback for Villanova last season. Watkins threw for 2,057 yards with sixteen touchdowns and eleven interceptions last season. It was Watkins’ first season as starting quarterback after only attempting 19 passes in the two seasons prior. Ferrante also said that the Wildcats will have sophomore Tanner Maddocks, sophomore Jack Ryder, graduate transfer James Mott, and freshman Robert Russo. “The guys in the room are going to compete. Connor and Tanner obviously have the upper hand because they have been the ones in the system the longest and have gotten the most reps during spring practice. We’re excited about the competition and will see how it goes, but right now leading the race would be Connor [Watkins] just from last years experience,” said Ferrante. Jaaron Hayek also talked about Watkins and the team’s confidence in him, “I think all of us are comfortable with him. We all have confidence that he can get the job done. I believe that we all think probably that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the CAA, if not the FCS. He’s got one of the strongest arms.”
Goodman’s Leadership Role
When asked about how other former Villanova defensive players have helped him, Jalen Goodman said, “I would say the main thing I gained from those guys is to have the confidence when you’re out there that you are the best.” Goodman mentioned Forest Rhyne, Amin Black, and Jaquan Amos as players who have helped him. “Those guys had over the top confidence that they were the best, and that’s something I felt that I was able to radiate on for me and the other guys on the team.” Goodman says he is ready to assume a bigger leadership role and added that he wants to help the rest of the team, especially the younger guys, also have that confidence.
A Balanced Roster for Villanova
Coach Ferrante was also asked about the balance of the team. “I think we have pretty good balance now, although we do have some new faces on the defense. Last year, we were really young on defense. This year, it does seem to be a little more balanced.” Ferrante specifically mentioned the importance of the experience of the secondary this season. He also noted that the Wildcats added some graduate transfers to help boost the defensive line. Coach Ferrante and Villanova really like the amount of experience on both sides of the football.
Michael Corbi’s Importance to the Offense
Ferrante also talked about Michael Corbi and his importance to this Villanova offense. “Mike is a phenomenal player for us. He came in here as a walk on and just developed and earned the scholarship and he’s been playing for us for a number of years now…This is actually his sixth year. He plays with an edge. He is probably our most aggressive guy up front playing that guard position, but he can also be a center. We’re excited about Mike coming back.”
Roster Moves + The Road Ahead
According to Coach Ferrante, the Wildcats will have twenty new freshman, four grad transfers, and sixty-eight players returning from last season. The Wildcats will report next Wednesday.
Villanova’s first game of season is on September 2nd at 12pm against Lehigh. The Wildcats’ first home game of the season will take place on September 9th at 6pm against Colgate.