The establishment of an early signing period for college football has been met with mixed reactions. But for Villanova coach Mark Ferrante, it was ideal.
The Wildcats received signed national letters of intent Wednesday from all 12 players who had already committed to the program. In previous years, those recruits would have to wait until February to sign, creating anxiety in the coaches concerned about other schools snatching them away.
"Now you can go into the holidays a little more at ease, knowing that you have some guys signed up and they're ready to go," Ferrante said. "Then when you go back on the road in January, you just go through phase two of recruiting, as opposed to worrying about hanging on to guys for so long."
Villanova's 2018 freshman class addresses positional needs, especially on defense, where the team signed three in the secondary, two linemen and two linebackers. Ferrante said he hopes to be able to redshirt as many as possible, especially those on both lines "to get them in the weight room and develop them for a year."
He said one defensive lineman who could see action as a freshman is 6-foot-3, 280-pound Garrett Zobel of La Salle College High School. Zobel earned first-team All-Catholic League honors on offense and defense this season and made first-team All-State.
"I don't want to say he's ready-made, but he may be able to come in and help right away, because he already has good size," Ferrante said. "We like him. He's a very good athletic defensive lineman. We really think he has a great motor, as well. He seems to work hard all the time, not only on the field but in the classroom."
The program also signed Qwahsin Townsel, a running back from St. Joseph High School in Hammonton who was named the Inquirer's South Jersey offensive player of the year, who will start out as a linebacker because of need there, Ferrante said.
The Wildcats had to make a late bid for a quarterback after freshman Kyle McCloskey left the program to pursue a college basketball career. They signed 6-foot-7 Maryland signal caller Qadir Ismail, the son of former Syracuse and NFL star Qadry Ismail.
Ferrante said assistant coach Ola Adams had made contact with Ismail in the past, which proved to be a benefit when the Wildcats renewed their recruitment.
"We were not planning on bringing in a quarterback," Ferrante said. "Then, with Kyle stepping away, we were fortunate to be able to get back involved with Qadir. So we feel pretty excited about a guy with his size, his athleticism and his abilities to come in where we weren't really evaluating the position most of the summer."
Ferrante said it's not very likely he will sign another player by the end of this signing period Friday, but added that he wants to bring in three more players whom he hopes to sign in February.