Less than a week from now, Zach Bednarczyk and the Villanova Wildcats will begin the 2016 season. Now a Sophomore, Bednarczyk will look to improve on last year where he threw for 10 touchdowns with seven interceptions. All of this came after an injury ending John Robertson’s collegiate career in only the third game last year. The Villanova coaching staff has praised him in how he handled last year with his mental toughness. Offensive Coordinator Sam Venuto said, “I never felt that a situation too big for him, which is kind of a credit to him.” With high expectations going into his Sophomore year, what should Villanova fans expect from Bednarczyk in 2016?
Zach Bednarczyk Expectations
Head Coach Andy Talley has seen several quarterbacks in his years and knows how to correct mistakes early on. Talley pointed out that while he was the CAA Rookie of the Year, he could have been more than that if he didn’t make as many mistakes. Most of Bednarczyk’s mistakes resulted from overconfidence. Bednarczyk often forced the ball into bad spots which cost the team heavily. Of his seven interceptions last year, four were returned for touchdowns. In camp this month, coaches were impressed with Bednarczyk’s improved decision making and reduction in forced passes. If Bednarczyk continues this trend into the season, Villanova will be a serious contender come December.
In Week 1, Villanova will face their toughest opponent of the year, the Pittsburgh Panthers. The Panthers are the only FBS team on the Wildcats schedule and have a stout defense and elite rushing attack. Pittsburgh had the 37th best FBS defense last season and will have several returning starters. It may be a rough way to start the season, but it will be a valuable experience for when conference play begins in Week 3 against Towson.
Beginning of Conference Play
In Villanova’s first eight games, they face very poor defenses. Only two stand out as Top 50 defenses, one being Pittsburgh in the FBS, and Towson at #20. This should allow for Bednarczyk to showcase his skills in both the passing and rushing game. While all these games are not winnable as some of the teams have solid offenses, Bednarczyk needs good outings in these games to be taken seriously. While it may seem like a lot of pressure on Bednarczyk, Javon White may be able to help. Last season, White suffered a broken leg and missed the last three games. White showed a lot of promise last year, averaging 5.7 yards per carry with two touchdowns. If White can find the endzone, Bednarczyk should be able to limit how many times he has to force the ball into tight areas.
Last Three Games
This will be the roughest part of the schedule for Villanova. The Wildcats will face two Top 25 defenses and the 2015 Co-CAA Conference Champion James Madison Dukes. The Dukes are the most dangerous of the three because of Bryan Schor. Schor is a sleeper for the Walter Payton Award and has tons of potential. His top target, Brandon Ravenel, will also be returning for his senior year. Ravenel had 57 receptions for 683 yards and will likely open up more now that he is the clear starting receiver. Nonetheless, all three are winnable games, but this stretch will likely decide whether Villanova gets in the FCS Playoffs. On top of this, Villanova has a late bye week this season. The grind of the consecutive early games could produce some injuries late in the season. This will be Talley’s last shot at a title, so this stretch will prove just how good of a coach he is if he can hold the team together for one last run.
With a wide variety of cupcake defenses and Top 25 defenses, Bednarczyk will prove his worth this year. If Bednarczyk really wants to take his game to the next level, he has to fix his decision making. It’s yet to be seen if this off-season has drastically changed his decision making but Talley and Venuto’s comments are exciting. If this is the version of Bednarczyk that plays this season, it could be a very special year for the sophomore.
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