High expecations for Villanova, QB Robertson

BALTIMORE - It's been quite a preseason for Villanova junior quarterback John Robertson, and practice hasn't even started.

Earlier this month, Robertson was among 20 players named to the watch list for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top player in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Robertson also has been named a third-team FCS all-American by the Sports Network.

The honors continued Wednesday, when Robertson was named the Colonial Athletic Association's preseason offensive player of the year.

Villanova, last year's preseason pick to win the conference, was selected second this season behind New Hampshire in a preseason poll of head coaches and sports information directors. The announcements were made Wednesday during CAA media football day at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens.

Last season, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Robertson completed 169 of 247 passes for 1,957 yards and 13 touchdowns, with seven interceptions.

He rushed for 1,405 yards (6.5 average) and 20 touchdowns.

"I think it's a really great honor, and I am hoping to live up to the expectation," said Robertson, who attended the CAA event with wide receiver Poppy Livers and coach Andy Talley.

In January, Robertson had labrum (cartilage) surgery on his left (nonthrowing) shoulder. He missed spring practice but said he is now 100 percent.

"I feel good, bigger, and stronger," said Robertson, who was joined on the CAA preseason all-conference team by Villanova senior offensive linemen Ross Hall and Vince Kowalski. "I played three games with it torn [last year], and it will be good playing with a healthy arm."

As for being picked No. 2 in the conference, Villanova is entering this season with cautious optimism and the memory of what happened last year.

At this time last year, the Wildcats were ranked as high as No. 5 nationally and were picked as the team to beat in the CAA after going 8-4, earning the CAA title, and qualifying for the FCS playoffs in 2012.

Villanova fell to 6-5 last year. A week after beating eventual national finalist Towson, 45-35, the Wildcats suffered three consecutive losses to ranked teams: New Hampshire, Maine, and James Madison. The losses to New Hampshire and Maine were by a combined three points before a 31-21 defeat at James Madison.

"Last season was disappointing," said Livers, who had 53 receptions for 580 yards and three touchdowns. ". . . We just weren't there, chemistry-wise."

Livers suggested that the team may have been overconfident after the 2012 season, and when things didn't go well, the Wildcats unraveled.

"There was too much arguing on the sideline with each other," Livers said. "We just needed to stay focused."

In addition to losses to graduation, running back Jamal Abdur-Rahman was dismissed for conduct detrimental to the team. Defensive lineman Pat McGowan has not returned to school. Talley also said sophomore cornerback Trey Johnson will miss the season because of labrum surgery.

One of the welcome additions will be sophomore tight end Ryan Morris, a transfer from Purdue.

The Wildcats, who open their season Aug. 29 at Syracuse, return seven starters on offense and eight on defense.

Despite the added pressure, Talley doesn't mind being picked second among the 12 CAA teams.

"To me, I am fine with being rated highly every year in the preseason," Talley said. "That is what you want every year, and to me, that is really important."